The Emotional Impact of Injuries

emotional impact of injuries

By Tara Hackney, PT, DPT, OCS, KTTP for Athletico Physical Therapy

As much as we would like to prevent injuries, they do occur. In an ideal world, an injury would not disrupt our regular activities or participation in sport. But many times injuries lead to shifts in our regular activities. For many athletes, this injury can trigger an emotional and mental response.

Emotional responses that can occur after injury:

  • Sadness
  • Isolation
  • Irritation
  • Lack of motivation
  • Anger
  • Frustration
  • Changes in appetite
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Disengagement

There is no correct way for an athlete to respond to an injury; every athlete is an individual and their response will vary. It is important to note that the emotional response to injury may change throughout the course of healing. It starts at the time of the injury but continues throughout rehab, and into the return-to-play phase as well. The healthcare team should be aware of emotional responses and be on the lookout for athletes who may not have proper coping to these intense emotions.

Some emotional responses may become problematic, particularly if an athlete needs help and does not know how to ask for it. Depression for example, can impact recovery and magnify other emotional responses. Depression can be related to feelings of performance failure. Elite athletes have shared their personal experiences with depression after injury that kept them from their sport for an extended length of time. When an athlete is injured, they may not only lose their physical independence, they may also feel like they are being punished or isolated from their sport and/or their team. There can be a large change to their social environment and this can affect them mentally.

How Can We Help Injured Athletes Emotionally During Recovery:

  • Athletes may not want to share their feelings as it may be seen as a sign of weakness. The coaches, trainers and doctors should work together to provide a support network for the athlete and counseling should be considered as well.
  • Try to keep the athlete involved with their team. They can attend practice, go to games, sit on the bench or keep statistics so they still interact with their teammates and don’t feel isolated.
  • Allow the athlete to help set goals for recovery and rehabilitation and make sure they are aware of the timeline of their healing.
  • Use a team approach to recovery – coaches, parents, physicians, athletic trainers, physical therapists and other members of the healthcare team should stay in contact with each other to make sure the athlete is coping well and has the support needed for recovery both physically and mentally.
  • Try to discourage a “tough it out” mentality because this can add to the stigma around mental health issues, and athletes may retreat further into themselves rather than seeking help.

By being aware of the emotional response to injury as well as the physical injury itself, we can help athletes have optimal recovery. If you are an athlete dealing with an injury, request an appointment at a nearby Athletico location so our experts can help you get back in the game.

REQUEST AN APPOINTMENT

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Ask the Doctor!

This regular segment of ‘Ask the Doctor’ addresses questions sent in by Sports Medicine Weekly followers. In this segment we have Dr. Gregory Nicholson from Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush, addressing questions about:

  • balancing a busy lifestyle with a efficient workout routine
  • issues for youth athletes and meniscus repairs

A graduate from Indiana University School of Medicine, Dr. Nicholson completed his internship and orthopedic residency at University Hospital of Cleveland and completed a fellowship in shoulder and elbow surgery at the New York Orthopaedic Hospital at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City.gregory nicholson md

Dr. Nicholson is involved in the design of an advanced shoulder replacement system. He is a consultant to differing orthopedic companies and has designed instruments and implants for shoulder and elbow surgery. He is the principal investigator for funded studies on rotator cuff repair augmentation, and shoulder arthroplasty.

If you have a question to be addressed on an upcoming show, please click here to submit your question.

Sports Medicine Weekly on 670 The Score

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Healthy Food Myths

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Dr. Gregory Nicholson and Steve Kashul talk with Karen Malkin from Karen Malkin Health Counseling to set you straight on ‘healthy food lies.’

As an AzCIM Certified Integrative Health Coach and Lifestyle Practitioner, and Eating Psychology Teacher, Karen’s background brings together all the values for which she stands. She is passionate about supporting people in making transformations in their own lives without sacrificing their favorite foods. Her approach combines cutting-edge science, the principles of Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine, and the psychology of eating with a practical approach to whole foods and healthy living.

Lifestyle and health are transformed though integrative health coaching. She practices a client-centered approach that acknowledges the interdependent roles of mind, body and spirit, and the innate healing capacity within each person, with an emphasis on self-care. She forms a partnership with her clients to empower and support them in achieving their health goals.

Sports Medicine Weekly on 670 The Score

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The Power of Simulated Altitude Training for Athletes at all levels

Dr. Gregory Nicholson and Steve Kashul talk with Sharone Aharone about the power of simulated altitude training for pro athletes and well as weekend warriors. Sharone is a USA Triathlon Level III Elite coach and the Owner/Head Coach of Well-Fit Performance in Chicago Illinois.

Well-Fit Training Center is Chicago’s oldest and most widely known provider of Multi-sport coaching and personal training. Well-Fit was founded by Sharone Aharon, a former special forces commander and a secret service agent, in 1998 and operated on a “consulting” basis. The mission is to help people and coaches of all ages and abilities discover their inner potential and perform at their personal best. 

Sharone’s competitive and coaching history expands more than 30 years. Starting in 1988, Sharone has competed in some of the first triathlon races in Israel.  To date, he has competed in dozens of running events, qualified for the Boston Marathon, completed seven Ironman distance races, including three Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii.

Sports Medicine Weekly on 670 The Score

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