Whether you’ve suffered a sprain, strain, fracture or broken bone, coming back from a sports injury takes time. Recovery is often frustrating for athletes who want to get back in the game ASAP. Instead, athletes must invest all of their energy in the physical therapy and healing time required to repair. These are uncharted waters for athletes which present an entirely new challenge.
Recognizing an Injury
A broken bone is obvious, but some injuries are less obvious. There are few athletes out there who haven’t competed with sore muscles, mild sprains and strains, shin splints or repetitive motion injuries. So, when do athletic aches and pains go from normal to injured? This is where clear communication with a coach, parents and a sports medicine physician is required. Many of the pains athletes dismiss as “normal” are signs of wear and tear, which if not addressed may lead to injury. With clear communication, stretching, cross-training, ice/heat therapy, physical therapy and short periods of rest athletes can prevent a more severe injury. While some sports injuries occur at random, many are the result of progressive overuse.
The Psychological Challenge is Often the Largest Hurdle to Overcome
The range of emotions after an injury is a constant roller coaster. Many athletes feel they have in some way failed themselves, their coach and their team. The worry that they will be replaced, that they won’t make a full recovery and that their recovery will take longer than planned can be a constant distraction. The more severe the injury and time away from the game, the more each athlete will have to push to keep their spirits up. If surgery is part of the equation, the anxiety worsens. This is where resilience comes to play. Instead of focusing on their limitations, athletes must focus on what they can do. This includes following their doctor’s orders, completing their PT and committing to overall good health. It is helpful if athletes set realistic and measurable goals and celebrate the small achievements along the way.
Pushing Too Hard
Athletes are taught to push themselves to the max and overcome even their greatest expectations. So, when a physician delivers the verdict of a six-week recovery period, many athletes won’t hear it. In an effort to regain control and accelerate recovery, many athletes push themselves too hard. This often delays recovery and sometimes worsens their initial injury. If an athlete wants to push, they can ask what types of training and therapy is safe. For example, if their knee requires time to heal, it may be the perfect time to focus on upper-body training.
Athletes should also take advantage of their recovery as an opportunity to invest quality time with friends, family and in interests they don’t always have time for. This will help to reduce stress and provides a healthy distraction from the worry of their sports injury.
If you’ve had a sports injury, contact your coach right away. Talking about it makes it easier to design a plan for recovery that makes sense.
Competitive Edge aims to develop the “complete athlete” using performance sports training in Woodbridge, VA and surrounding areas. Members are able to enhance their athletic performance and develop a competitive edge to excel in their desired sport.