Athlete strategies for coping with injury


By Dr. Alan Goldberg

(Note: This is the fourth in a series on Injuries to Athletes:)

#1 BE SAD – Allow yourself to mourn and feel whatever loss you are experiencing. Being “macho”, “strong” or “brave” by burying or hiding your feelings in this situation is not only a WASTE OF ENERGY, but will interfere with you effectively coping and recovering. Feeling is an important part of the healing process. Remember that! Feeling is part of healing!

#2 DEAL WITH WHAT IS – Injured athletes have a tendency to focus on the “could ‘a beens”, “should ‘a beens” and the “way it was” IF ONLY they hadn’t gotten hurt. The fact of the matter is no amount of wishing upon a star will change the reality of your situation. Yes it sucks that you got injured. Yes, it’s thrown a monkey wrench into all your plans and dreams. Unfortunately, this is your reality right now and you have to allow yourself to deal with where you are, right NOW!

#3 SET NEW, MORE REALISTIC GOALS FOR YOURSELF – As you begin the recovery process, you may very well have to learn to measure your successes very differently than ever before, perhaps in millimeters now instead of meters the way it was before your injury. It may mean that you also have to start all over again back at “square one” to build up arm or leg strength and endurance. Keep focused on your NEW goals and leave the old ones in the PAST for now where they belong. Once you’ve come all the way back from your injury you can start entertaining your old goals.

#4 MAINTAIN A POSITIVE ATTITUDE, NO MATTER WHAT – As difficult as this will be, try to stay as positive as possible. Understand that “IF IT IS TO BE, IT IS UP TO ME.” In other words, your attitude and outlook is ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING! When positive, your attitude can speed up the healing process and lessen the emotional pain that you have to go through. However, when you’re negative you’ll slow the rehab process down to a screeching halt and make yourself miserable in the process. It’s all up to you. Avoid being negative because nothing good ever comes from negativity. Negativity will only bring you and everyone else around you down.

#5 TAKE AN ACTIVE PART IN YOUR HEALING – Be conscientious about your physical therapy. Follow the doctor’s advice closely. Don’t cut corners. Work as hard with your rehab as you did in your training. In addition, practice using healing imagery on a daily basis. If you’re recovering from a broken bone or separated shoulder, spend 5-10 minutes imagining that bone or shoulder beginning to heal. “See” in your mind’s eye a healthy supply of red blood cells surrounding that area and facilitating the mending process. I can’t scientifically guarantee that this will speed up your healing. However, I can promise you that this will make you feel less helpless, more in control and much more positive. These attitudinal changes in themselves will speed up your healing.

Dr. Alan Goldberg is a nationally-known expert in the field of applied sport psychology, Dr. Goldberg works with athletes and teams across all sports at every level, from professional and Olympic caliber right down to junior competitors. He is the author of 25 mental toughness training programs and Director of Competitive Advantage. His website is

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