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In Recovery? How To Overcome Injury Anxiety

Everyone gets hurt. You can fall down the stairs at home or trip on a curb. Athletes, however, tend to get hurt more often than most simply because they put their bodies on the line – but on its own, this risk of injury might not be a problem. After all, while athletes may get hurt more often, struggling especially with things like tendinitis and sprains, they’re also in better condition to begin with, meaning it’s often easier for them to recover, and they have the motivation and dedication necessary to tackle the rehab. Unfortunately, there’s another complicating factor at play.

Unlike the average injured person, athletes are more likely to feel that their identity is wrapped up in their physical abilities, and not being able to work out or compete can be devastating. And when these same athletes experience severe injuries, the aftermath can be emotionally fraught. Fear of reinjury, pain, and anxiety can all keep people sidelined when physically they no longer need to be, but getting injured athletes back on their feet can require multiple strategies because the problem goes beyond the physical.

Anxiety And Injury

In order to understand what athletes experience in the aftermath of personal injury, it can be helpful to look at the insights of sports psychologists. Sports psychologists study the cognitive processes that underlie successful athletic performance, as well as what holds athletes back. Among the emotions observed in injured athletes are fear and embarrassment. Specifically, they may be afraid that their injury will prevent them from achieving their goals or, of course, that they’ll be injured again if they attempt the same activities. They may also experience embarrassment if they got hurt in front of their peers, or they don’t want to be seen as weak or unskilled when they return and aren’t able to do as much as they could before.

Another important factor to consider when working with injured athletes is that, despite their physical prowess, they’re still only human, and an injury can trigger trauma. Trainers see this all the time, even if they don’t know how to describe the issue, but it turns out there’s a name for it: traumatophobia. Traumatophobia is the fear injured athletes have of reinjuring themselves, and it’s on the rise. This may be in large part because of a greater interest in physical activity by many adults today, and specifically an interest in more intense physical activity, but whatever the underlying cause, it’s a barrier to peace of mind, ongoing activity, and overall happiness.

Helping Athletes Get Back On Their Feet

If you’re an athlete who’s coping with an injury or a trainer who is working with one, it’s important to approach the training process with care. Pushing too hard will be counterproductive, both physically and emotionally, but several strategies have proven effective.

  • Mindset Matters: There’s nothing more frustrating than being told over and over that a pessimistic state of mind will hold back your recovery, but there’s certainly some truth to the statement. That being said, an overly optimistic approach to your recovery isn’t quite ideal either. What you really want is to maintain a sense of optimistic realism. This will keep you from pushing yourself too hard, but also allow you to make progress. At the end of the day, a positive mindset alone won’t heal your injury, but it will help.
  • Go Slow: Going slowly is one of the hardest things for athletes, especially those who were injured before they met a time sensitive goal, such as running in a race. The temptation, then, is to rush ahead in order to get back into form, but that can be risky. In fact, it’s just about the worst thing you can do, and will almost inevitably lead to reinjury. What you need to do, then, is be flexible enough to set new goals that allow you to move slowly, building back up to where you were at pre-injury, and accept that you may still experience additional setbacks.
  • Don’t Go It Alone: Getting back to your usual fitness routine after an injury is hard work, and you can’t go it alone – and we don’t mean that from a purely emotional perspective. You’ll need multiple forms of support on this journey, including a physical therapist to coach you through your initial injury and a personal trainer who can help you plan your post-injury workouts.
    After an injury, it’s especially important to opt for a personalized fitness coaching program so that you’re not putting too much strain on your recovering injury. Going back to the gym on your own, without appropriate guidance, can be too risky, as are standardized programs. And don’t forget, if you’re experiencing a lot of anxiety about returning to the gym, you may want to consider working with a sports psychologist or another mental health professional.
  • Do Your Homework: We’re all amateur doctors in the age of WebMD, but there’s a time and place for flexing that medical insight – and after an injury is one of them. Take time to learn about your injury, the course of treatment, and expected recovery time. Though the course of treatment and recovery will vary slightly depending on your individual case, underlying health issues, and other factors, having some context for what’s happened to your body and how it’s generally handled can help you put your injury and recovery in perspective.

Getting Beyond Recovery

If you’ve been injured during a sporting event or while training, getting back into the gym can be stressful, but if you approach the process with the right support, you can minimize the risk of reinjuring yourself – and that’s why you need support from Demetz Online Personal Training. With experience working with athletes and fitness buffs across a variety of sports, we can help you go from the sidelines to the center of the action with a personalized training plan. 

Contact us today to learn more about our personal training program and how we can help you achieve your fitness goals. Getting hurt can feel like the end of the world, but it doesn’t have to mean abandoning your athletic aspirations for good.