Mind Games - Page 2
The Psych Factor
Sport psychologists studying the relationship between injury and emotion have identified four factors that determine how athletes cope with injury: personality, history, outlook and coping style.
Organized, controlling and proactive personality types (“type A” people) are more likely to approach rehabilitation with strategy and discipline and stay motivated during treatment. However, those feeling victimized and not in control (viewing the injury as punishment or infliction from an outside source) tend to stray from treatment, ignore the problem, or rush back to regular activity too soon.
Those who have suffered a long layoff due to injury in the past are more prone to concede to another lengthy layoff, even if it’s not necessary this time.
And outlook tends to dictate coping style. Pessimists enhance their distress by focusing on what they’ve lost in terms of fitness, race goals or athletic part of their identity. Optimists who view injury as part of the athletic journey generally heal faster by committing more readily to the rehabilitative process with focus and determination.
The Control Factor
Emotional reactions to injury may begin with denial that progresses to anger, leading to rationalization as a way to downplay the injury’s severity. Examples of rationalization strategies are experimenting with brief rest periods or promising to stretch daily without addressing the injury’s root cause. When such avoidance tactics fail, depression and worry can ensue. Instead, examine your perception of the situation by asking questions such as, “Is this injury going to drastically change my life? What does my body need to keep performing?” and, “What does this injury free me to do with my time?”
These questions put the injury into context and open your eyes to new lessons. Maybe you need to train less or differently. Perhaps your gait needs adjustment (through form drills, orthotics or different shoes) or you have a muscle imbalance.
The Action Factor
Once you’ve established a positive mindset, choose an appropriate course of action. Rather than letting injury be an excuse for inaction, assemble a team of professionals—a sport psychologist, doctor and physical therapist—to help you convert your passion for training into a passion for rehabilitation.