Mental Edge: Dealing with emotions when returning from an Injury

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Mental Edge: Dealing with emotions when returning from an Injury

High School Sports

Mental Edge: Dealing with emotions when returning from an Injury


Coming back from any injury is tough enough, but a possible career-ending injury is an experience filled with intense emotions. An injured athlete returning to competition will have both positive and negative emotions. These are the emotions that occur the most from athletes:

  • Fear – Fear of re-injury is the most common emotion of injured athletes.  The thoughts of re-injury or how the injured body part may hold up can be problematic for the returning athlete. Being overly cautious can lead to re-injury.
  • Excitement – The exhilaration of being back to competition after a layoff is often intense. Being hyped up too much can set the stage for a disappointing return.
  • Anxiety – Nervousness can interfere with a successful comeback and the ability to focus on just playing the game and focusing on the process.
  • Impatience – Sometimes, the injured athlete will expect to return to their previous level of play, even though the athlete may not have the optimal level conditioning or practice. This can be a big source of frustration for the injured athlete.
  • Pressure – A much anticipated return to action and not wanting to let teammates and coaches down can drastically alter the injured athlete’s successful return to competition.
  • Apprehension – Some injured athletes will be overly cautious and apprehensive due to the possibility of experiencing pain in the previously injured body part and potential long-term damage.
  • Uncertainty – Questions of performing at the same level of play or regaining their status on the team can be a tremendous hurdle for some athletes.
  • Happiness – After a long break and successful rehab, the extreme joy of being back is a positive emotion.

All emotions affect your recovery and performance.

Negative emotions can increase muscle tension and affect how you breathe. If these emotions are not in check, not only can your performance suffer but there is an increased chance of re-injury. To manage emotions after an injury, realize that your first competition back from injury is no different than any other game. Build your confidence one day at a time. You won’t have a lot of confidence right out of the gate. Be patient and earn your confidence one day at a time!


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