Getting back into a sport after an injury can be a huge mental hurdle.
Any athlete will tell you that injuries are almost impossible to prevent. If you are very into sports, chances are at one point or another you will get an injury, from something as small as a sprained ankle to something more serious like a torn ACL.
Any athlete will also tell you that it’s a lifestyle, and quitting a sport, even after an injury seems almost unthinkable. That being said, there are often huge mental road blocks involved, when getting back into a sport after an injury. Even if you’ve been competing your entire life, your body changes after an injury, and jumping back into a sport often comes with fear and a lack of confidence.
The most important thing is that you face your fear. Even if you will never be as good as you once were, just the simple act of getting back on the field or court will be good for your self-esteem and help replace some of the confidence you may have lost.
I will say that your health is the most important thing. You should only return to your chosen sport if your doctor gives you the green light. You should also be gentle with yourself, so if your injury was very serious, don’t expect that you will be able to just jump back in without any physical or mental obstacles.
Here are five ways to get back into a sport after an injury.
Start Slow- Showing up is half the battle. If you even show up to the field or court, you should consider it a win. If you can do a drill or two, even better. Don’t expect to be back in the game at full force. Being there at all is a victory.
Celebrate Small Victories- Think of an injury as a complete reset. Everything you do to get back into the game, no matter how small should be considered a victory, and celebrated. Confidence needs to be built back slowly, piece by piece.
Mind over Matter- Any athlete can tell you the truth of this. If you just focus on the end goal (which in this case, is just showing up), then any other gains you make are a bonus. It is probably going to hurt a little. However, pain leads to gains, as long as you are being safe and not overdoing it.
Supplement Your Diet- Eating foods with plenty of protein, and drinking lots of fluids will help keep your body running at an optimal level. The idea here is to give your body the best chance it has of healing properly, and easing back into a life of physical fitness.
Consider Physical Therapy- If your injury was serious, chances are physical therapy will be part of the healing process. If it wasn’t, consider working with a physical therapist anyway, especially if you have mental blocks about getting back on track. Physical therapists will not only keep your body safe, but address the mental issues you may face as well.
The challenges to jumping back into a sport after an injury are both mental and physical. If you address both of these safely, you will be back on the field or court in no time.