February 15th, 2013

Health N' Sports: How Injury Affects the Mind

Staff Report

Health N' Sports: How Injury Affects the Mind
photo from www.cdn.sheknows.com

Coping with the Psychological Effects of Injury

As a part of the Louisville Orthopaedic Clinic, the Sports Rehab Team physical therapists are knowledgeable and trained in the latest advancements and techniques available in sports rehabilitation.

On a weekly basis, the Health N’ Sports Update will give information on prevention, recovery, and include special offers, as well as general health tips that would be beneficial to all. If there is a specific topic you’d like to know or hear more about, email future suggestions to editor@catholicsportsnet.com.

Exercise and sport is an excellent way to stay in top physical shape.  Consistent exercise has also been proven to improve one’s mental health and reduce stress.  For some, physical activity is just that, an activity.  For others, physical activity is a way of life.  Unfortunately, along with the benefits of exercise comes the risk of injury.  Advances in medicine have allowed injured athletes to return faster than ever.  Yet the physical aspect is only part of the equation.  The mental aspect of injury is often ignored and sometimes more difficult to overcome than the physical injury itself.  Here are some strategies for coping with injuries:


Don’t be macho – Trying to hide an injury or continue exercising with an injury will only delay the healing of the injury.  This also interferes with the coping and mental recovery associated with an injury.


Think in reality – Many athletes have a tendency to focus on hypothetical situations.  The “what if” situations will not help and will only be a distraction during the rehab process.


Set new realistic goals – By setting short term achievable goals, you are able to see the progress during the rehabilitation process.  This will keep you motivated to continue the rehab.  Maintain a positive attitude


Stay active – Recovering from an injury doesn’t mean you have to become inactive.  For example, someone with a lower leg injury can still use an upper body ergometer (UBE), lift weights with their upper body, or participate in lower impact activities, such as swimming.


Stay involved – If you’re part of a team, regularly attend team functions.  If not, spend time with friends and family and avoid isolation.


If necessary, utilize professional help – Changes in sleep and eating patterns may be a sign of depression.  Seeking professional help should not be a sign of weakness and may help progress your rehab!


Be patient – Rehabilitating an injury could take a long time.  Returning to an activity before you’re 100% could result in re-injury.


Adapt – Let’s face it.  Some injuries might force someone to stop doing the activity they love.  This doesn’t mean all activity has to end!  For example, runners with failing knees would benefit from cross training and taking up new activities, such as swimming. 


-Mike Mehring, ATC-


Ty E. Richardson, M.D. shares some insight:


Talking to someone who has had the same surgery or injury can be very helpful.  The total knee patient can see that one day they will walk without pain.  The ACL patient will have hope that one day they will get back on the field. Many clinics keep a list of patients willing to talk to other patients about their experience.


Additional comments from St. Xavier High School Basketball Coach Kevin Klein:


1) What do athletes need to do (mentally) to come back from injury or surgery?

All athletes must listen to their respective athletic trainer(s) and physician(s) and pay attention to the details they are being told. We expect our players to be accountable and follow doctors'/trainers' orders. These instructions often require discipline of our athletes outside of our care. Our players gain an advantage mentally when they know they have done everything in their power to get healthy and resume play. 


2) What helps athletes get motivated to get back in the game after surgery?

The competitive nature of sports and making up for lost time. Sitting on the bench and watching your teammates can be a helpless feeling at times, but can also be an unbelievable motivator to rehab with great effort and urgency so he/she will be ready for their next opportunity once full recovery has been achieved.


3) What makes the difference for athletes to improve and come back after injury and surgery?

The biggest difference is each athlete's work ethic and desire. The athlete's who are willing to more than what is required outside of team practices and workouts are going to see the biggest gains. There is no substitute for hard work and passion.


4) How can athletes do what is needed (mentally and psychologically) after surgery?

It starts with gaining confidence throughout the rehabilitation process and making weekly progress. Physical strength will create mental toughness and confidence. It is also advantageous to talk with other athletes who have been cleared and returned stronger than they were prior to their injury. This can me a great motivator.


Louisville Orthopaedic Clinic & Sports Rehab Center

Main Office: 502-897-1794

Physical Therapy: 502-897-1790

Website: louortho.com

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