Coping With Sports Injury
Shouldn't Be A Lonely Time

You don't have to feel isolated when coping with sports injury. It's OK to ask for support.

The best recovery starts from your mind. The psychological side to coping with sports injury is often forgotten.

If you've been injured, how many times have you thought "what's going on here?" and "what's my best course of recovery?".

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We all tend to focus on the physical side of recovery rather than the mental. A full, speedy recovery needs both.

Most injuries require immediate portions of rest. It feels like an infinite amount of time to be thinking, when all you want is to be doing.

Thoughts range from "it's not serious, I can train tomorrow" to "this is the end of the world for me!". It depends on your personality and seriousness of your injury as to which extremes you may respond. The classic "why me?!" comes in to all of our minds though.

These extreme reactions are stages which don't help in your recovery. In fact they often lead to negative emotions of depression, which is the worst place to be when dealing with so many thoughts.

The sooner you get passed the negative emotions, the sooner you can fully focus with a positive attitude for coping with sports injury.

Accepting Your Injury

Yes, it's unfair that you have been injured. Nobody likes it, yet it could happen to anyone. It does happen to many. Before you can move on, you need to accept that you are injured. What happens from now on, is in your control.

It's up to you to take the initiative of learning about your injury. Your doctor and other health professionals will help you understand what needs to be done.

So read up on what they tell you. Know your injury and what it'll take to recover, inside out, the good and the bad. Knowing what hurdles you may be facing will help you when you come to face them.

Adapting And Managing Changes

Even after injury, you're still you. But injury will mean some change to your routine. However temporary, this change will cause some stress and anxiety. The best way to adapt is to manage and organise those changes, inside your head and out.

Stay on top of everyday things. If you have to take time off work or college, talk to your employer or tutor, explain the situation and come to an agreement. These things may seem obvious, but the longer you leave them, the more stress they cause.

In terms of fitness, talk to your health professionals about activities you can do, to keep fit whilst your specific injury is recovering. Once you are beyond your initial rest period, you can work with your physiotherapist to make an adapted workout plan.

Maintain a healthy balanced diet. You should anyway, but it's especially important to eat the right things to help your body heal. Also, if you've gone from being very active to inactive with injury, you may put on weight unless you review your diet. Talk to your health professional if you're worried about this. Eating less isn't a quick fix.

The changes inside your head are mainly to do with your attitude. Coping with sports injury and recovering fully requires dedication, hard work and patience. Working with your health professionals is vital. They can't do it all for you.

It's up to you to keep a positive attitude. There is more about this below.

Intermediate Goals - Your Stepping Stones

Goal setting when coping with sports injury is crucial. Intermediate goals are small targets that you can achieve within the overall time span of your full recovery. Your physiotherapist and doctor will help set and assess these targets, according to each stage of your recovery.

The sense of achievement with each completed goal will motivate you to keep going with a positive attitude. You will gain in strength and confidence, until finally you reach your ultimate goal of full recovery.

Each goal is your mile marker in the marathon of recovery.

Social Support

The feeling of isolation when you're coping with sports injury is devastating. Everyone seems to be getting on with their lives, whilst yours is the only one on hold. Sound familiar? Well guess what, there are a million people out there feeling the same thing, so you're not alone.

Secondly, you're not alone! Keep repeating it to yourself until you really believe it. There is always someone willing to listen. They don't have to understand how you feel, they are just there for you. It's up to you to talk to them when you're ready.

If you haven't got passed the feelings of depression after a month, and are struggling to cope with your injury, I suggest seeking professional help.

There is absolutely nothing wrong in seeing a counsellor for some extra help. Actually it takes guts to ask for help. More people than you may realise have had counselling of some sort in their lives. If it means getting you on the right track emotionally, then it's definitely worth it.

Personality And Self-Talk

Your personality can make a big difference to the speed of your recovery. It depends on whether you are naturally more of a pessimist or optimist. Your response to injury will aim to meet your natural emotional needs. This isn't good if you're a pessimist.

The optimist will see the "glass half full" side of the situation, put it into perspective and have a positive attitude to recovery.

The pessimist will only see the negatives and focus on them. If you have this kind of negative thinking, you're likely to need more social support. Hearing the positives from people you trust will make a difference.

However, the biggest difference has to come from you. Over-coming your natural negative views by telling yourself the positives, is important to your recovery. This continuous self-talk will motivate you and create a positive attitude.

Setbacks and Fears - The Tortoise Approach

You are bound to have some down moments when coping with sports injury. We are only human. After having made some progress, you may miss a goal or suffer a setback.

The trick is to acknowledge the setback for what it is. Just a setback. Let any negative emotion out. This is where your social support and self-talk are most important. Once you have released any negative emotion (e.g. by telling a friend about your setback), you can get back to focussing on the positives.

Take the tortoise approach. Patience! It's something I've not been good with in the past. And boy did I pay for it. Doing too much too soon is more likely to cause further injury and take longer to recover.

I know it's so hard to take things slow. You see progress and you want to keep pushing and making further progress. But you need to stick to your intermediate goals, listen to your physiotherapist and take one step at a time.

At the other end of the scale, you may have fears that are holding you back. The fear of re-injury is quite common. It can get to the point where you are scared to do anything, including your rehab exercises. This is not good.

It is a difficult state of mind to be in. You want to recover but you don't want to risk making things worse. The best thing to do is talk to your physiotherapist about your worries. They are the experts, and will understand your fears.

They may re-assure you by taking smaller steps and increasing them when you have more confidence.

Taking smaller steps are still better than taking no steps at all.

Final Word

Coping with sports injury is a stage by stage process.

Follow the directions of your health professionals, and take it upon yourself to do the work involved. You'll be on your way to a well earned recovery.

Remember that the psychological effects of coping with sports injury may linger on after your physical recovery.

If it's affecting your performance or enjoyment, seek professional help.

Click Here to Share Your Sports Injury Story

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