5 Mental Steps for a Healthier Recovery from Sport Injuries


If you are an athlete, you might already have experienced this situation: Your teammates or even you, yourself, have to take a break from sports due to an injury. Injuries can happen at any time. However, your opponents are still able to train for the next important game or competition coming up. Therefore, it is important to keep the right mindset during and after the injury. 

There are certainly different types of injuries that take different amounts of time to heal, but the strategies for a strong comeback are similar irrespective of the type of injury sustained. Here are some of them : 


  1. Set clear and realistic goals. Athletes often set goals to measure their accomplishments and improve their abilities. When restrained by an injury, you may need to regain your tendency to push yourself once you are able to train again. To formulate your goals and maintain progress, the acronym “SMART” comes in handy. For example:

·         Specific: I will run 5 miles at the same pace I ran  pre-injury

·         Measurable: I will track my running pace using a running app each time I walk/run

·         Attainable: I know I ran 5 miles before, and my injury will heal and allow me to do it again

·         Relevant: I enjoy running and want to continue running for my health

·         Time-bound: I will let myself heal for the duration my doctor recommended and I will increase my mile pace week by week in time for the race I signed up for next month.

2. Visualize a healthy you. Studies have shown that if we visualize an action and actually perform it, we stimulate the same regions in our brains. You can visualize yourself doing anything! Sinking three-pointers, sprinting down the 100m lane, or hitting a home run. Imagining yourself performing is a type of training and it also ensures trust in your body's ability to perform well. 


3. Be optimistic. When we face big life challenges, our minds can get clouded with negative thoughts, but it is important to keep a confident mindset during the injury and recovery period. If you are pessimistic about your injury, it will be harder to be confident during future competitions. You can write down a phrase that you will remember and which also boosts your confidence. A mantra that Muhammad Ali always used was: “I am the greatest!”

4. Focus on the present. Whenever athletes are injured, we want to recover immediately. However, injuries take time and patience to heal. So, you will do your body a disservice if you focus on the past and future. No matter the type of injury, it will take time to heal and recovery won’t happen overnight so think about what you can do now to speed the healing process.

5. Take control. One of the most frustrating aspects of an injury is that it can make you feel powerless and helpless. And even though you cannot heal a broken bone or torn muscle yourself, you can make conscious choices to rest and push yourself when appropriate. It is important to remember that pushing yourself too hard will only make it worse. Do things within your control that will help make you feel better and help you heal faster, including eating nutritiously, getting adequate amounts of rest and sleep, and practicing mindful meditation to de-stress.

Almost every athlete will sustain some sort of injury or setback in their career or lives. Therefore, it is important to make the right choices to recover as fast as possible and to have a strong mindset when returning to your sport.

Works Cited

Gilmerm. “How to Mentally Come Back From a Sports Injury.” Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic, Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic, 15 Oct. 2020, https://health.clevelandclinic.org/how-to-mentally-come-back-from-a-sports-injury/

Kellezi, Blerina, et al. “The Impact of Psychological Factors on Recovery from Injury: a Multicentre Cohort Study.” Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, Springer Berlin Heidelberg, July 2017, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5504249/ 

“Home.” Summit Performance Psychology, https://summitperformancepsych.com/mental-health-after-injury/ 


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