Injuries: The light at the end of the tunnel
The jargon that would be associated with this topic would be adversarial growth. What this actually refers to is the development (growth) that may occur as a result of troubled times (adversary). Now this can be related to any challenging aspect that you may experience, but for the purpose of this blog, it will be discussed in relation to sport injury.
Injuries present a number of challenges to us as individuals. When we think about injury typically we may only consider the physical component of injury. We so often neglect the psychological side of injury. From my experience this can present itself in a number of ways:
Decreased confidence in ability
Loss of trust of the injured body part
A feeling of isolation
A sense of frustration
Concerns about future opportunities
The list goes on, but it highlights some of the ways that injury impacts athletes psychologically. The other side of an injury is one of opportunity and growth. Injuries can free up a lot of time which can allow us to develop skills that we may not have previously been able to. It also allows us an opportunity to address the psychological component of our performance.
In studies that were conducted in 2008 and 2017 respectively, they both found that rugby players injuries last an average of approximately 4 weeks. With this in mind an injury is generally understood as an event that prevents a player from training/matches for 24 hours. When considering this, if you didn't already think that injuries in sport were inevitable, this should reiterate it.
And yes, we may think that athletes have better recovery times than most of us and that could be attributed to the rehabilitation support that they receive, but there are three further psychological aspects that contribute to this:
They have a burning desire to return as soon as possible
They are willing to take chances in rehab
They generally have a mindset that pushes them to overcome obstacles head on
These characteristics may be personified in examples such as Jonny Wilkinson who experienced numerous injuries but would repeatedly rehabilitate himself to get back to playing fitness. Another recent example is Andy Murray who has constantly had hip problems and has valiantly tried to rehab and get through these issues. More recently he has undergone hip surgery in an attempt to return to play. These examples demonstrate the points made above in relation to elite athletes that have competed in the most recent professional era.
There is no doubt that in this process that there is a multi-disciplinary support network which supports these athletes. This may include family, friends, teammates and professionals without whom and with resilience alone, the rehabilitation process may be slightly more challenging.
There are many theories which discuss injury and how individuals cope with in. However, the broad overarching themes that one could consider are how one interprets the injury, what the implications of this injury are and if growth is to occur, what are the new developments that the individual can make in relation to their new situation? Following on from this...
What can you do?
In relation to this and the psychological aspect of injury, it is important to increase awareness of your current position and the journey that lies ahead. This will allow you to take some perspective on your injury. There are many ways of doing this, but a fundamental skill to develop for this would be reflection.
Use your support network. We all have different sources of support and they all offer different types of support. Use them.
Psychological skills could be useful in developing a sense of post-injury growth. This may include reframing where difficulties are viewed as opportunities. Self-talk may be a skill that is developed where the internal dialogue that you have with yourself is shifted slightly. Imagery may also be used to develop thought patterns and images in your head to prepare you for certain things or to help you in overcoming a challenge of your rehabilitation process.
In closing, have a look at this clip and think about how some of these things may have been made possible: