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What are some of the psychological issues associated with injury?
- Identity Loss
- Fear and anxiety
- Loss of confidence / performance decrements
- Isolation and loneliness
What are some of the psychological responses that we see in injured players? It’s often easy to identify the injured body parts, the physical responses the player has from scans or x-rays but the psychological responses are not as obvious. So, I think the biggest one for me in individual sports, maybe a bit more, is identity loss. Players have an incredibly large commitment to their sport and training, which can take up quite a big part of their daily life. They may not play another sport or socialise much with friends outside of their sport, so effectively this is taken away from them and they may start to question who they are. This response to injury is often compared to that of athletes when they transition to retirement because if they’re not as involved in their sport, what do they do? There’s quite a lot of time to fill there.
What we also see in injured athletes in the initial stages, perhaps more, is feelings of fear and anxiety around their injury and fear of the unknown going forward with how their rehab will go, in terms of time and what this means for their future selections and maybe their scholarships if they’re in an academy setting. There could also be dips in their self-confidence in the initial stages of rehab. Again, this can be linked to the questions around their sense of identity during this time and I think we’ve got to remember that the sport they’re participating in may be sometimes their only source of confidence that they draw upon. Feelings of isolation can also be present especially if they’re doing most of their rehab away from their teammates at home, away from the academy. So, training more on their own during this period of time. I just wanted to talk through some of the common responses to injury. I think it’s important that the coaches and support staff are aware that these are normal responses to injury and then if we know these normal responses then we can be better prepared to help support the player to recover and return to sport maybe sooner and happier.