Any athlete or sportsperson will know that a serious injury can seem like the end of the world. It has the potential to stop you performing basic everyday tasks, and can take its toll psychologically as well as physically. Being sidelined from your favourite sport could leave you feeling restless and unmotivated, having a huge impact on your mental health, but there are ways to get through it. Here, we’ll go through everything you should do after sustaining a serious injury, allowing you to bounce back as quickly as possible.
Learn as much as you can about your injury
Perhaps one of the most important parts of the recovery process is learning as much as you can about your injury. The more you know about how to treat the injury, the more you can relieve some of the stress and anxiety you may have through fear of the unknown. This research can also prepare you for any impact your injury may have on your daily life, and help you to find the right questions to ask when discussing your condition with your doctor or physiotherapist. Being able to talk about your injury with an experienced professional can make the recovery process much easier.
Learning about your injury also gives you an idea of how to safely speed up the recovery process. Different injuries require different treatments, such as cryotherapy and thermotherapy, so it’s important to know whether to heat or ice your injury when you’re recovering at home. Treating the injury correctly could slow down your recovery.
Maintain a positive attitude
Staying positive while afflicted with a major injury is easier said than done, but it’s important to remember that a negative mental state make recovery much harder. According to clinical psychologist Deborah Roche, an injury is “a realisation of the fact that you’re not invincible, and that things can take us all out at different times”.
Instead, set your mind to your long-term goal and figure out what steps you need to take to get there. Work with your doctor or physiotherapist to figure out a realistic time period for your recovery. That way you won’t be left discouraged if it’s taking longer than you imagined to get back on your feet.
It’s important to remember that everyone heals differently, and every injury is different. You should avoid comparing yourself with someone else, and don’t be put off your personal recovery plan if others with the same condition heal at a faster rate than yourself. Focus on yourself, and notice and celebrate each milestone you reach, no matter how small.
Ask for support if you need it
As we’ve already mentioned, your mental state is incredibly important during recovery, but much of it depends on the support system you have in place. Knowing you don’t have to face an injury alone can be a huge stress reliever. Whether this is achieved through talking to a friend or family member or going for professional support with psychological rehab, you shouldn’t carry the burden of your recovery alone. A good support network can be a major contributing factor in helping you stick with your physiotherapy, preventing you from being discouraged by the speed of your recovery.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. This is just as relevant when it comes to financial issues you may have around medical costs. You can apply for legal funding if you weren’t at fault for the injury, or even if you weren’t properly warned of any risks related to the sport. The NFL, for example, famously lost a legal battle for failing to warn players of the dangers of concussions, which resulted in a $1.3 billion settlement.
Remain involved in your club
If you’re involved in a team sport or are part of a club, try and stay involved even if you aren’t on the field. Sitting on the sidelines during practice and games lets you see what your coach sees, a perspective which you can then apply when you eventually get back in the game. It also lets you see how your teammates play, which you might not have noticed before your injury.
Staying involved can also make it much easier to make a smooth transition back into your team after you have fully recovered. Surrounding yourself with your teammates also provides another level of emotional support and encouragement to focus on healing.
Maintain your fitness levels
Even if you can’t exercise specific parts of your body due to the injury, you shouldn’t sacrifice your personal fitness. Work with your coach, trainer, or physiotherapist to create a workout plan that works for you, and try other sports to keep your fitness levels up. Exercising the parts of your body that aren’t injured lets you focus on muscle groups you probably weren’t working on enough before, and can even help you recover even faster.
Studies on unilateral strength training have shown that working out the muscles on one side of our body can keep the muscles on the other side strong, preventing them from breaking down. This means that if you break a bone, tear a ligament, or endure something that prevents you from working out a certain set of muscles on one side of your body, you can avoid muscular atrophy by working the other side of your body.
Studies in the past have found that the unused limb is not completely mobilised, and that exercising one part of your body improves neurological pathways to both sides. Continuing to exercise even while recovering from an injury can ensure that you stay motivated to work out, and can help you quickly return to form when you’ve recovered. Just make sure not to overdo it, and to avoid working out on your injury before you’ve had time to heal.
Sports injuries can be difficult to overcome but building a strong support system, staying positive, and not allowing yourself to get lazy can work to get you back to normal as quickly as possible.