Being injured sucks, we all know that, but sometimes when we are not the one working through the injury we often fail to sympathize with injured and can often leave them feeling worse. It is by no means that we do that intentionally but life keeps moving and sometimes we leave people behind. However, it is very crucial to the athlete working through the injury to have a strong support network that will ultimately help them heal faster and get back to the competition soon.
Far too often I have athletes tell me how they feel alone or as if they have little to no support helping them through the process. The reality is, most people don’t understand how to help, even if they have recovered from injuries before. I have compiled a list of what I find to be some of the most helpful tips and pointers to remember so that you can be supportive in helping your athlete, your teammate, your friend fully recovers and return to what they love to do.
- Injured athletes often go through the same grieving process as someone who is dealing with a death.
I’m not going to go into the entire grieving process but it is very important to realize that athletes may be in denial sometimes or depressed and may take time to accept. If someone is a true athlete, their sport is a part of their self-identity and, even if just temporary being injured is like losing a core piece of who you are. It is much easier said than done to not let it get them down. Be patient and understanding the emotional roller coaster your athlete may be going through.
- High levels of stress and anxiety prolongs the healing process.
It is very common for injured athletes to experience extreme levels of fear, depression, anxiety and anger. Be understanding of that emotional roller coaster. The more stress that we are under the longer it takes our bodies to heal ad recover. Stress has an impact on every aspect of our body and slows down the healing process or can hinder a full recovery. Do not put added pressure on them to heal and return to the game and remind them that their bodies need time.
- Keep them involved.
Do not let the injured athlete feel like they are being isolated and like they are no longer apart of the sport just because they are injured. Find creative ways to keep them involved. That may be making them a captain, allowing them to do some practice coaching, letting them participate in noncontact practice drills or giving them a special role that doesn’t feel like just busy work. Still allow them come to practice, be in the huddles, travel to away games and take part in team activities so they can have as much of that connection as possible.
- Set outside goals.
Help them think about life outside of the sport and consider things they want to accomplish. This could be items on their bucket list or academic goals but whatever it may be by setting new goals you are allowing the athlete to continue their competitive nature and channel it into something else. The sport will temporarily not be the center of their world and this is the best time to try and grow in other aspects of your life.
- Tryout new hobbies with the athlete.
Encourage your athlete to be willing to try new things and hobbies and most importantly be willing to go with them so they don’t feel alone. This allows for the athlete to get their mind off of the sport for a little while and find something else they may be passionate about. Take a painting class, cooking class or search for a local meet up in the area. Sports often consume our lives as an athlete and while that is temporarily not an option it is the perfect time for athletes to discover what else they may be interested in.
- Talk to them about how they are doing outside the sport.
When an athlete is injured most of their daily conversations are surrounded around the injury. They are constantly being asked how they feel and when they will return and this is not helping them heal. While these conversations often come from a good place it just causes more stress. Talk to them about anything else as often as possible, that doesn’t mean ignoring their injury, but show them you care about them as a person and not just them as an athlete.