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When an athlete gets injured it creates a ripple effect through their gym. Other athletes will think to themselves: 'I'm glad it wasn't me'. Injures are plagued by negative thoughts and feelings. Avoiding the pain and the daunting challenge of returning is the average response from athletes. Coaches and parents fixate on the correcting the physical deformity or issue, and most stop there. But what about the psychological deformity that any injury could leave an athlete with? Who is supposed to stop and think about that?
Recovering from an injury and healing from an injury are two very different statements. If an athlete heals from an injury that means that they physically have healed the wounded part of their body. If an athlete recovers from an injury that means that physically and mentally they are past the injury. Recovering has a much longer time table, and sometimes is never achieved. That is called fear-avoidance behavior. Behavior that inhibits the athlete from recovering mentally, and possibly even physically. Athletes create a negative spiral while healing and recovering that leads to low self-confidence, anxiety, and panic. So how do you avoid fear-avoidance behavior?
The simple answer for teammates, coaches, and parents are honesty and support. An athlete has to be honest about how they mentally are processing an injury. Furthermore, they need the positive support system to feel safe about being vulnerable. These easy two changes in a gym environment can help steer injured athletes in a more positive recovery direction.
Articles are generalized information for all athletes. Sport psychology is an amazing tool to help take an athlete to the next level of training and competition by incorporating a new perspective on sport performance.
If interested in private sessions regarding mental performance training, please contact Alisha Barnes.
West Virginia University graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in Sport & Exercise Psychology and Master of Science degree in Sport & Exercise Psychology from University of Kentucky. She currently works with REVEL Gymnastics and extreme sport athletes.