Best Practices for an Athlete's Recovery From Injury

July 7, 2018

Juvenile Brown Pelican - Clearwater Beach, Florida

"An athlete is a normal person with the gift of an undying passion to be the best and achieve greatness." Amanda Ring

Over time most athletes are going to suffer injury. It is a given. In an ideal world if you knew you were going to be injured, it would be great to schedule the injury at the beginning of the off-season. Unfortunately it rarely happens that way.

No matter when you are injured it is going to upset your life, training and season. The strategy is to deal with it in the best possible way. The goal is to return to play as quickly as possible.

Although it is the beginning of football season, there is a long list of players already on the injured list. Miami Dolphin's quarterback Chad Henne is the most recent player to be benched for injury, scheduled to have shoulder surgery. Carolina Panthers tight end Jeremy Shockey is on injured reserves for a concert, waiting to be cleared by an independent physician before being able to return to play.

When faced with an injury, athletes respond in one of two ways. The level of motivation determines how quickly an athlete returns to play. Responses range from viewing the injury as a reason to take a break, nursing the injury for as long as possible to the athlete who is determined to do what is necessary to quickly return to play.

Yes, some things just take time. There are, however, some things athletes can do to speed up the process. For Chad Henne and other players on the injured list mindset makes a difference. Motivation, attitude and commitment are powerful contributors helping to speed up the healing process.

Specific characteristics help to speed up the healing process.

· Be actively involved in your healing process. Take responsibility for your recovery. Instead of waiting for someone telling you what to do next ask questions, do research and find out what you can do to help the process along.

· Highly motivated athletes are fully committed to doing what is necessary to return to play. A strong desire combined with faith in your body's ability to recover effects your outlook.

· The right support is critical. Surround yourself with people who support your desire and determination to heal quickly and return to play. Distance yourself from the skeptics and critics.

· A strong positive attitude throughout the process helps to maintain focus on the goal and to minimize frustration.

· Imagery and visualization are powerful tools to speed up the recovery process. Vividly visualize your bodies healing, your cells, ligaments, fascia, tendons and bones doing their job. See the injury healing, getting smaller and smaller, as your body is repairing itself.

· Positive expectation of a full healing and successfully returning to play. Believing something is possible lays the groundwork for success.

When your heart is set on healing in time for the event of a lifetime, there is no room for doubt. It was the belief of what was possible which pushed you to excel in your sport. That attitude, and skill set, can be applied to healing. The process is similar. It is something you already know how to do.

Although healing seems passive, it is a very active process. Constant activity is occurring under the surface. Sitting on the sidelines is difficult. Instead of feeling sorry for yourself use this time to your advantage. There are ways to improve as an athlete which are overlooked when training.

  • Become a student of technique. Watch training videos of yourself and other excellent athletes.
  • Learn new performance techniques to reduce the risk of injury in the future.
  • Rediscover your passion for your sport.
  • Learn mindset strategies to keep you in the zone.
  • Visualize training and competing. Strong, vivid visualization actually fires slow and fast twitch muscles. It is a way to remain conditioned when injured.
  • Learn what you can to reduce the fear of re-injuring yourself.

Injury is always a possibility, but many athletes lose confidence with prolonged recovery times. The fear is an emotional response to a specific event. With the right tools it can be easily overcome.

When using mental game strategies to create a positive mindset, athletes focus on their full potential. A champion mindset makes a point of focusing on the positive instead of the negative. Reframes are useful tools for shifting perspective around from negative to positive. In fact with reframes the end result is usually the same. Changing to a positive focus shifts an athletes attitude from passive to active.

Activity: Athletes are used to setting performance goals, along with mile marks, to maintain high performance. Use the same strategy for recovery. Set long term goals with benchmarks along the way to stay focused on healing and quickly returning to play.

In fact challenge yourself. See if you can decide on an earlier return to play date than expected. Stretch yourself a little and see if you are up to the challenge to mentally focus on what is possible to heal as quickly as possible. Making a decision, then acting with intention to do whatever is necessary, influences outlet driven goals.

Have you been training for an important event and ended up with an injury, throwing everything off course? It is easy to become discouraged. Winning athletes look for opportunities to move beyond the current obstacle. Apply this principle to take charge of the healing process.

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