How to handle the heartache of a sports injury – and get back on track again
Sitting out during an injury can feel a lot like grief. Experts provide tips on how to handle it.
Along with bringing physical pain, sports injuries can leave sidelined athletes feeling an array of emotional challenges, including depression, anxiety and grief. Here are a few ways to find agency and hope while you’re on the mend.
TRACK YOUR RECOVERY. Recognise that your recovery is part of your sport. If you thrived on following a training plan, or enjoyed logging your gains in a journal, keep that practice while you’re recovering. That way, you have a record of all the work you’ve been doing – and you’re treating rehabilitation as part of being an athlete.
SEEK COMMUNITY. Being with others who’ve faced similar experiences is a helpful way to navigate any form of grief. “Community is a big part of recovery. Even if we define a sport like running as a very individual sport, there is a very defined running culture,” said Matthew Sacco, a clinical health and sports psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic. “There’s a loss of community that comes from just not being in the same place at the same time for the same reasons.”
BE FLEXIBLE ABOUT BOUNCING BACK. Being open to new experiences is a significant advantage for those who sustain injuries, Dr Sacco explained. The ability to rethink your life can ultimately lead to a greater sense of satisfaction.
Colleen Quigley, an Olympic steeplechase runner, experienced foot injuries that interrupted her training. During her rehabilitation, she was limited to cross-training sports like swimming and biking. Rather than seeing her recovery as a burden, she gave those activities her all and found they made her a more well-rounded athlete.
EXPECT ANGST ONCE YOU RECOVER. If you’re back on your favourite starting line, it’s normal to worry that you’ll be injured again. The expectation of pain following an injury can also make it harder to participate in the activities you love.
While there’s no quick fix for the feeling, staying present is a useful coping strategy. And easing back into activities slowly can also help. Try aiming for and completing small goals that take your mind off reinjury.
By Kells McPhillips © 2023 The New York Times
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.