I actually wrote this article last Fall but it is yet a reminder even today how staying positive can only help you get through the tough times 🙂
Athletes need to view their injury as yet another athletic challenge and opportunity for personal growth and learning. It is important to identify the skills that have helped you succeed as an athlete such as personal responsibility, determination, perseverance, precision in training, and the willingness to take physical and mental skills to a higher level.
It is both acceptable and normal to become upset, angry, and overwhelmed when injured. Ask questions to your doctor and therapist. The more you understand the treatment, the more you will believe in it. Do not overwhelm yourself with spending hours researching your injury on the internet. There are so many uneducated individuals commenting on situations that they have no specific information on in regards to your situation. Stick to listening to YOUR doctor and therapist. You must have faith in your rehab, team and be an active participant in your therapy.
You will also need to surround yourself with people who will support you through this long and frustrating process. Don’t cut yourself off from your sport and training partners. You will only feel worse if you ignore your sport and try to ignore your feelings. It is very helpful to find someone who has recovered from a similar injury, they can inspire you and help you through the darkest hoursof rehab.
Another tool to use in your recovery is sports psychology. Sports psychology can really enhance your recovery. Using skills such as goal-setting, positive self-talk, and imagery, will direct you and provide a more positive path through recovery.
Focus your energy onsetting SMART goals. Goals should be specific, measurable, attainable,realistic, and timely. Your physical therapist can help you in creating goalsthat will be appropriate yet challenging, specific yet realistic, and bothtimely and measurable.
Do not allow negative dialogue with yourself. Thoughts like “This will ruin my season”, “I will never be competitive again”, “My competitors are gaining on me”, “I am a loser”, etc all can undermine your progress with recovery. Stop being so hard on yourself and replace self-talk with positive thoughts.
When injured, imagery is probably your biggest limiting factor. Most imagine themselves getting weaker, slower, de-conditioned, and being passed by their competitors. However, you HAVE to focus your images on positive outcomes. This is THE MOST IMPORTANT action you can take. Replace images of defeat with images of the strength you are gaining from the intense rehab.
Visualize returning to competition and being able to outperform anyone because of the increased level of pain tolerance you have gained. Numerous studies have shown that athletes that use these techniques experience greater increase in function, strength,and have less anxiety.
The more you invest yourself in the recovery process the stronger you will become physically and mentally as you get back into your competitive field.