Injuries are an accepted aspect of participating in sports and can range from being annoying but without any real impact to being more serious injuries that can prevent sporting activity and require rehabilitation. We can often see the physical injury, but the psychological impact of injury often goes unnoticed by everyone other than the injured individual.
People engage in sports for a number of reasons whether this is to compete and rise to challenges, to develop teamwork and leadership skills within a social environment, to just have fun and exercise or to boost self-esteem and confidence, as well as many other reasons. When we experience an injury there is a sudden change to our routine and physical ability as well as the concern over what may have happened (although there is no direct link between pain and damage). This may result in changes to lifestyle, hobbies and confusion as to how best manage and rehabilitate the injury.
As such there are a whole range of emotions that can be experienced when injured and ‘side-lined’ which can range from disappointment and sadness to apathy and low motivation; can include anger and frustration at people and things that would not normally cause these reactions. Our sleep and appetite can be negatively affected and we can begin to feel isolated when having to take a break from our hobbies or social groups.Furthermore there can be a sense of failure for not being able to perform at a high standard, or guilt for not being able to support teammates but instead now being reliant on the support and work of others.
Injuries may be expected in sports, but in everyday non-sporting life injuries can have just as much of an impact on the way we feel and our self-worth. Whereas an athlete may feel they cannot admit or display their injury to their team or coach, a normal individual when injured may feel they cannot acknowledge and injury because of daily demands of modern life, work and caring for others. Therefore injuries in everyday life for a non-sporting individual can have just as much psychological impact as a sporting injury due to the mental turmoil that may be experienced.
The human body is incredible but it is not invincible and injuries are a normal part of life that everyone will experience at some point in their lifetime. Injuries can be frustrating and debilitating and it can be difficult to have a positive outlook during these times, but most injuries are a temporary situation and will improve. Furthermore it is important to remember that recovery is rarely a linear process and setbacks, ups and downs are all a normal part of the healing and recovery process.
When experiencing an injury try to take the time to recover properly so that your physical and mental health are as strong as they can be. A simple acronym used in sports can help to focus your recovery from injury - RECOVER
· REST - Rest appropriately and reduce the aggravating activity. Rest is an important part of recovery in the acute stage of an injury
· EVALUATE – consider what aggravates and eases your condition and injury and how you can gradually return to the activities you enjoy and the level of activity that is appropriate
· CONNECT – Make sure that due to your injury you do not isolate yourself - maintaining social support and engagement with others is an important factor when injured. A supportive network will help you to feel valued and supported during your recovery period and may help to lessen concerns over the injury.
· OPPORTUNITY – gradually work towards achieving your goals by having an awareness of the opportunities and threats relating to your recovery. Consider discussing these with a health care professional for further advice of how to appropriately return to your chosen activity.
· VISUALISE – having a clear focus on your goals and what you want to achieve is important in maintaining motivation and in monitoring your progress. Mental visualisation is a powerful tool in working towards goal achievement and can help with self-confidence as you return to full activity
· ELIIMINATE FEAR – Fear of re-injury or damage being caused is understandable but pain and damage are very, very different. A graded approach in returning to activity will allow you to gradually increase the demand on your body as you become healthier. Focus on what you want to achieve and how rather than the things that you are worried may or may not happen.
· RETURN to play/hobbies/normal life – begin to enjoy the things in life that you want to do, or the hobby or sport you haven’t been able to do due to injury. It may take time to build up to the previous of level of physical activity but with a gradual return you should get there.
Try to remember that when a friend or colleague is injured, they may also be experiencing the psychological impact of this injury. And if you are injured yourself, try to remember that injuries are a normal part of life and the way it can make your feel is normal. It won’t last forever and allowing your body to recover is an important step in regaining your physical ability.