Sustaining a long term serious injury is horrible for anyone to endure. No matter what sport you play from soccer, rugby, bodybuilding or golf; whatever the sport it's a traumatic experience for anyone to go through. There are so many emotions that you go through when dealing with injuries and it can limit you from doing so many day to day tasks, work, training and (depending on the injury) anything that requires you to stand for long periods of time.
There are many aspects of the injury, the first is denial; "It isn't that bad", "I'll be back in a couple weeks", "It's just a little sprain". Straight away the best thing to do is to get a diagnosis, so you know exactly what you're dealing with. With joint injuries, they are difficult to diagnose without an MRI or CAT scan, as a minute tear may not be hurting but you could be walking around with a possible ACL injury.
Knowing your injury is mentally challenging and this is the second aspect. Depending on the way you react towards your injury, your mind can bring you lower with negative responses and a negative state of mind. For some people playing sport/training is a way of life. When this is taken away many negative emotions will come into play. Anger, sadness, anxiety, vulnerability and depression to name a few. People with long term injuries often feel isolated and alone especially if they are part of a team and they may feel detached because of it. You can become envious of those who are fit & healthy, followed by shame and or guilt for acting in certain ways or doing certain things. The feeling of not being able to help your team is a disappointing feeling.
Injuries can cause severe anxiety, with some studies suggesting signs of post traumatic stress with possible re-injury. People who have a fear of re-injury can often overdo their rehabilitation in hope that they'll be back to their best quicker. In some cases, by doing this, there is a chance you can create more injuries or aggravate the current injury. Athletes can become very venerable when recovering from a serious injury, it's not unusual for a fear of re-injury, you become very cautious about everything that you do and it may be always in the back of their mind.
Depression is very prominent with long term injury. I can most definitely relate to this as I'm sure a lot of people can. When something like a long term injury happens a lot of positivity and happiness can often be exchanged with negativity and a pessimistic view on life. Confidence can drop and they can develop a low self esteem. If someone's sense of identity is challenged it can be a depressive, anxious & painful time in their life. A sense of identity is somewhere you feel you belong, your friends, family, gym, work, sport etc. When we lose sight of somewhere we belong it can often have a down spiralling effect and lead to feelings of uncertainty and thus fear and anxiety creep in.
It's much easier said than done, but by holding firm and strong and following the correct protocols you can have a great road to recovery and this is the third aspect. Social support is a much needed aspect of recovery of an injury. The importance that social support gives during these times of injury and pain are probably just as important as the treatments themselves. It's an absolute benefit for our mental health & wellbeing and also a tremendous help to athletes to get them through these tough times.
The fourth is acknowledgement and realization and that is crucial to the process. Avoiding the truth about the injury is not a great coping mechanism; speaking from experience, it only makes the injury worse. Interestingly but not surprisingly, those with limited coping resources are also the most susceptible to injury in the first place. (Williams, 1996) Acknowledging the injury is important for both injury and rehabilitation. A great way to stay connected with the team/sport is to find an alternative outlet - another way to get involved. However, for some it can be too emotionally involving (due to the long term injury) and further worsening the healing process.
I have come to an understanding now. Injuries aren't just a setback but also a great gift. A setback is just a setup for a great comeback (T.D Jake). It's not the end of the world, although it feels like it, it's more of an obstacle on your road to recovery. You have to be able to find new ways to train, new ways to exercise, adapt and overcome! You WILL surprise yourself and others of the inner strength you have. You may discover something about yourself, you never knew and wouldn't have known unless this injury occurred. Like anything in life, how you look at it and how you respond to it will determine if it's a permanent setback or a gift. It's up to you to decide! Choose carefully.
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