Injury Recovery

At some point in time in the life of an athlete they will face an injury, most will be minor, but some will be major. For most athletes recovering from an injury will be as simple as getting back on the field, for some though recovery will be much more intense. The recovery I am talking about though is not physical therapy, but rather mental recovery. Recovering from injury is a unique experience for an athlete and every athlete will face different challenges in their journey back to sports. There are several questions Which I got asked about sports and injury and several things to bare in mind.

The number one question I get asked as an athlete looking at my third sports related surgery in five years is “why do you keep playing? Aren’t you scared of getting injured again?” To which my response is I am, but I realize that injuries are a part of sports. No matter how careful I am and how prepared I am I can only control myself, there are other people on the field whose actions are unpredictable. The next thing I tell them is that sports are inherently risky, I believe there are three types of athletes:

  • The overly confident athlete – this is the athlete that believes they are invincible and that they will never get injured. The issue with this is that that they will go into challenges they shouldn’t or be overly reckless. Their recklessness will eventually lead to a “contact” injury.
  • The overly cautious athlete – this is the athlete that is always nervous, they will back out of challenges and shy away from situations. By backing out of a challenge they will eventually pull away from a challenge at some point and face a “non-contact” injury.
  • The athlete that understands the risks but is willing to play – this athlete understands that there are risks involved in sports. These players will not shy away from challenges, but at the same time they are not going to be reckless, they are the least likely to find themselves injured during play. Finally I say that life in and of itself is inherently risky, everything we do in life could lead to injury, some things are riskier than others, the question becomes what risks am I willing to take, what do I want to accomplish, what are my goals?

When recovering from injury an athlete will face many different questions from family, friends and from themselves. First and foremost I say listen to your friends and family, they have your best interests in mind, but don’t let them make decisions for you. The decision to return to play is yours and yours alone. Ask yourself, am I ok not playing? If I step away will I feel regret? This is why the question of whether or not to return to play is yours, if you let someone else make that decision for you will you regret quitting because someone else told you to? You must ask yourself what are your goals? What do you want to accomplish? And how will I get there? Only you can achieve your goals, only the work you put in will get you to where you want to be. Finally, trust yourself and trust your body. Your body will tell you what it can and can’t do. Listen to it. Take your time returning. A professional athlete will return from the same injury in much less time than you will for many different reasons, but more than anything else, their one job is to play so their teams will do everything they can to get them back on the field. They will do therapy and work every day to get back out there. The average person though will do therapy two to three times a week. Trust the process trust your body. And when you have been cleared to play take your time. Do not race right back into games, build up to it, light practices, light drilling light work. You might have been cleared to play, but your body isn’t ready for a full game yet, build up to it.

Remember to set goals for yourself in terms of recovery. A goal should fit into the SMART method: Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Relevant, Time-based. Once you have achieved one goal set the next, do not settle.

Finally I want to say that when deciding whether to continue playing or not, if you decide not to play there is nothing wrong with that as long as the decision is yours. If you have sat down and made the decision and find that you are okay not playing and that you can move on with no regret then by all means do not let anyone tell you you must continue playing. The decision to return to play as I stated above is yours and yours alone.

If you are having issues trying to decide what to do, your coaches have my contact information, I am more than happy to sit down and talk with you one on one, with you and your parents or coach and we can all work together.