As a performance coach, it is essential to understand that there is a natural grieving/fear response post injury. This is where an individual has been sidelined or unable to perform everyday tasks, leading to a loss of self-worth, achievement, income and employment (Joyce & Lewindon, 2014). In the case of a more serious injury, the individual may display signs of denial, anger, bargaining and depression before they accept their injury. Further, if the injury requires a long-term rehabilitation plan, personal factors should be considered such as family life, holidays and rehabilitation centre locations (Joyce & Lewindon, 2014). It is important that the individual has a support network and remains positive throughout their rehabilitation phase as an individual’s mood can affect their recovery and influence their hormonal responses (Joyce & Lewindon, 2014).
“Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity.” – Hippocrates
Returning from an injury may be a daunting experience for many, as it involves psychological and physical stress on the mind and at the site of the injury. In this case, it is essential that the physical, mental and emotional mechanisms are met in order to make a successful return. If these mechanisms are not met, then the athlete may be hesitant and anxious about re-injury. There is an increase in neural activity when someone sustains an injury; as the brain places attention to the affected area (Joyce & Lewindon, 2014), this is because the brain wants to understand what is happening in and around the injured area. In turn, the brain will perceive this area, or any activity involving the affected area, as a threat until the physiological and psychological systems are fully restored. This signifies the importance of a tailored rehabilitation program/strength and conditioning program from a qualified practitioner.
Have you ever or have ever seen someone come back from an injury, and then re-injure themselves almost immediately? This could be why.
In most cases, the patient may fully recover, however they may still feel uncomfortable with certain types of training. This is the brain remaining aware of the injury that has occurred, in order to avoid any movement that may pose a risk. Because of this, more attention is placed on what would have been unconscious sensations before the injury had occurred (Joyce & Lewindon, 2014). If this mindset is prolonged, the individual is at risk of developing anxiety and therefore, performance will decline with poor skill execution, energy resources overused and a decline in attention to the task, all of this increases the chance of re-injury. Not only does rehabilitation involve returning the patient to full function and enabling them to withstand stress on the injured area, it also involves removing anything that poses a threat and influences an individual’s subconsciousness. To successfully rehabilitate the individual to optimal functioning, the fear of pain and re-injury must be removed and they must believe it has been (Joyce & Lewindon, 2014).
Individuals will experience a different level of anxiety, depending on the significance that the injury has on their playing career or a typical event. Examples include a final, selection period and earning a spot in the team. When an individual experiences anxiety due to injury, they are at a higher risk of re-injury (Joyce & Lewindon, 2014). Furthermore, personal experiences can increase one’s chances of re-injury, for instance, if an individual returns too soon and then re-injures themselves, it is more difficult for them to return to play the second time around (Joyce & Lewindon, 2014), an accumulation effect occurs. Finally, one of the most important aspects of rehabilitation is developing trust between the patient and the practitioner involved. This instils a sense of confidence and belief in the patient, particularly when the practitioner declares that they are ready to play.
“Any world-class rehabilitation strategy has a clear plan for returning the athlete to play and also considers additional aspects of on-field performance and life in general.” (Joyce & Lewindon, 2014)
Come in to Absolute Health & Performance to return stronger mentally & physically, and to receive the highest level of service, the level you deserve.
Written by Performance Coach Michael Velianis
Joyce, D., & Lewindon, D. (2014). High-Performance Training for Sports (1st ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.