When we talk about the suffering associated with an injury it is usually the physical health aspects that come to mind. The word injury is synonymous with pain and it is the pain in the area of the injury that is given the most thought. However, the psychological impacts of a serious injury can be just as important, but are often overlooked. This is especially true if you are an athlete suffering with an injury that is keeping you from doing what you love for an extended period of time or even preventing you from ever competing again.
The change in routine, combined with doubts about the future and the experience of dealing with the physical pain, can lead to a potentially psychologically damaging state of mind. Resting after an injury is imperative to aid the healing process but this period of almost complete inactivity can fuel feelings of helplessness and loss, which can then continue to develop into something more debilitating.
If you have experienced a life changing injury then there are several stages of grief that you are likely to go through. These stages generally have to take place before you are then able to reach a place where you can begin to find peace, happiness and fulfilment again. These stages are of course not the same for everyone and will range in severity. However, allowing each stage to manifest as its own separate emotional state is important on the road to psychological recovery.
Refusal to accept the situation is normally the first stage of grief in this scenario. This denial can often present as anger as a decreased state of physical ability can obviously be quite frustrating. Once the denial stage has passed it is likely that a period of desperation will set in. This desperation may lead you to seek alternative treatments that you believe might get you back to full health quickly, or at all. In some instances this causes people to try to return to sports too early and actually end up doing more harm than good. Once this stage has run its course, depression is likely to set in. During this time it is important not to give up on yourself and to keep your future goals and ambitions in mind. Depression can be a long battle but once you work through it to a point of acceptance then you will know that you are ready to move forwards. Whether this means attempting to return to your sport or accepting that your future has different plans for you is dependant on your injury and the healing process.
Rehabilitation from a serious injury can take an incredibly long time and a great deal of effort. In many cases even this isn’t enough to return an athlete to the level of ability they previously enjoyed. However, it is essential to remember that you are more than your sport and to take comfort in the other positive aspects of your life!