If you follow sports on a regular basis then you must have seen players getting injured and having to take time off in order to recover from their injury. While most of the time, viewers only seem to be concerned with the physical aftermath of the injury and when the player will be able to return to the pitch, what is going behind the scenes is of much more importance. What many of us do not see are the psychological effects that an injury have on the athlete and how that shapes his entire post-injury career.
In humans, physical trauma is almost always accompanied by mental trauma. Even if we may not be able to see the psychological effects of any trauma immediately, it is always there, repressed in the individual’s subconscious mind. Similarly, whenever an athlete or sportsman suffers from any major physical injury, he undergoes a mental trauma as well. This article seeks to educate the masses by discussing the major psychological effects that one goes through whilst recovering from an injury or maybe even after complete recovery.
The effects that an injury may differ depending on the intensity of the injury and the athlete. For instance, a player who is suffering from a minor muscular discomfort will not show the same level of mental distress as that of a person suffering from say, a knee recovery operation. The situations are gravely different and so are the results. Similarly, if an individual has suffered from a major injury in the start of his professional career then he will react a certain way. One of the most common reactions observed among young athletes is denial. They are not yet willing to accept the impact their injury will have on their career i.e. their absence from major tournaments etc.
For a lot of players, a physical injury comes as a major shock to them because they consider themselves to be invincible. It comes as an eye-opener that their abilities have been taken away and this effects the confidence level of players. Apart from this, other major emotional responses observed among players are that of isolation, anger, irritability, sleep discomfort and a general feeling of despair.
One of the most common after effect of any injury is depression. The severity of the depressive symptoms may vary depending upon on the severity of the injury. Depression may arise soon after the injury. Some of the symptoms of depression include frustration, loss of appetite and a general loss of interest in everyday routine. One thing to be noted is that depression has a terrible effect on the mental health of a patient and also hinders the recovery process therefore it is recommended to help the patient during this difficult time in order to facilitate both, their mental and physical health.
In addition to depression, another psychological reaction that the player may have can be termed as a re-injury anxiety. The basically refers to an athlete’s irrational fear of suffering from the same injury in an even more painful manner. This is one the major reasons why a lot players tend to give up on their professional careers and not return to the player field. The fear is so strong that they give up on the psychological changes including lack of confidence and lack of focus. In simple terms, due to their previous injury, the players feel under-confident and believe they will end up being a victim of the same physical trauma again. Due to this constant fear, they are unable to focus on the sports itself and generally become under-confident on the pitch. This can also be termed as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). If a player has recovered from his injury and is showing no noticeable signs of mental trauma, he will obviously return to his professional life but this may not always mean he is completely fit. In PTSD, many people show the signs of mental distress much after the actual incident. One of the main triggers of post-traumatic stress may be going in similar conditions. So, for instance, if a player suffered an injury in a particular stadium then chances are that when he returns to play at that stadium, at any point, he might succumb to the memories of his injury a freeze/zone out. Basically, he begins to live that traumatic moment again and is unable to perform.
If we talk in terms of people who have suffered from career ending injuries, they mostly suffer from depression and loss of athletic identity. This a term associated with the feeling of helplessness that a player feels when he is no longer a sportsman. Athletes tend to have slf-concept issues. When they spend a large portion of their lives preparing for certain profession, the sudden termination of that career pushed them into sort of depressive state where they no longer feel like they have a unique identity. They are still waiting for things to get back to normal. Again, acceptance comes difficulty and people dent the life altering change.
In order to avoid any permanent psychological distress and bring the player back to his former status, it is necessary that the player undergo counseling. They should be encouraged to seek help and speak to professional psychologists and/or sports consultants so that they get the necessary help and support they need to return to their regular lives and focus on their careers.
For a lot of athletes, getting injuries a part of the game. If you are football fan then you may have seen numerous players go on and off the pitch due to a hamstring and what not. These are minor injuries which do not have a major impact on the mental health of the player. If however, the player suffers from any major trauma which will disrupt his career and halt participation in sports events then chances are, that injury will have a lasting effect on the players mind.