Career-threatening injuries play havoc with the athletes’ minds, often giving them the sense of going from being “somebody” to “nobody” in an instant, resulting in frustration, heartbreak and even depression. The ability to rise above the long haul of surgery, physiotherapy, re-conditioning and having to compete with the fear of an injury recurrence, depends on many factors.
Athletes react differently depending on what they perceive the prognosis to be for a full recovery. It is therefore imperative that the surgeon, physiotherapist, the fitness conditioner and family members remain positive, taking things one step at a time as far as the rehabilitation process is concerned.
Accepting the situation – of being injured – with a positive mindset, is the first step to regaining sporting prowess. As with life itself, we are left only one choice, that being to claw our way out of the hole of despair and to climb the rehabilitation ladder one rung at a time.
The next step is to convince yourself that it is a challenge you relish to accomplish. Much has been written about how an injured athlete’s younger years and type of upbringing affect the successful outcomes. While this is absolutely true, I believe that family support is probably the biggest factor in a full recovery.
My own sporting career was threatened on a number of occasions, but with the best medical assistance in the form of surgeons and physiotherapists I lived to compete another day. In fact, I owe my life to the medical staff in more ways than one. However, it was my parents that got me through the years of the rehabilitation process at the age of 20-21.
Two decades into the future and injury struck me down once more. Again, thanks to top class medical assistance, successful surgery and the tenacious support of my wife, a full recovery was possible.
These “speed bumps” were certainly disruptive and traumatic to my family members, and whilst this is not the way you want to obtain life lessons, this just reaffirms that without the physical and moral assistance, a full recovery would have been a lot tougher. Their support was my ultimate saviour.
If I apply these life experiences to my coaching philosophy, then it is important to advise coaches to keep tabs on injured individuals as much as the rest of the team. Players should always feel supported in the recovery process; this alone will help in speeding up the return by adding the sentiment of value to the injured individual.
Communicate with the injured player, the immediate family, coaching staff and medical practitioners in order to facilitate the most effective reconditioning programme. Understanding the possible pitfalls and exercising all the necessary precautions for a safe comeback, will contribute to the length of time and quality of recovery. If done correctly, a confident, fully conditioned and revitalised athlete will be available to inject renewed vigour to the team that can have the effect of a turbo-charge.
Sport and injury unfortunately go hand in hand, but the way the athlete handles the psychological blow is very important to the eventual outcome. Recovery takes courage and commitment, but athletes returning from injury are victorious in the knowledge that they are stronger than the hurdles life throws at them.