You invested hours, days, and even months in your offseason preparations. The season is here. You feel dialed and set for the chance to show case what you know you can do. It’s time to secure the bag, go “get yo money”, etc. Get it now while you can because you are one injury away from losing it all. We have heard it from football analysts.
Your team depends on you. You’ve deemed yourself as the savior to your families financial security. The house or car you want to buy your parents comes down to you and your ability on the field. This of course doesn’t happen if you are hurt or injured.
Then an injury happens. The one thing every athlete dreads and doesn’t even want to think about, let alone talk about. The ultimate negative has found it’s way to your door step and now the one thing that makes you, you, has been removed. You have control over nothing. The injury you sustained has so many layers to it but are rarely if ever talked about. Until now.
The layers of being injured are such that a players identity is thrust to the forefront but is the one thing most coaches and trainers or even medical staff are ill equipped to deal with as it forces the question of what will life be if I can’t perform. Players on the team seemingly disassociate themselves with you as if they could catch the disease you had the misfortune of getting. You feel like you are no longer a part of the larger picture or that one thing that is bigger then you. Being removed and or being taken away from the one thing that you have been pouring so much of your time into is just the tip of the iceberg when you look at the ripple effect of an injury.
Lack of Control
The first piece that hits you is the lack of control you had in the situation, meaning you were playing one second and then BANG it happens. Immediately you think, wait what happened, and how could this happen to me. The feeling of not having any control is a daunting place to be as we as athletes typically control most of what we do with our training nutrition and day to day life in the game. Our ego needs the control to provide the daily security and trust athlete inherently and sparingly give out. How could this happen when I did everything the strength staff told me to do. If there were a way to predict when these thing could or would happen. (more on this in PART 2 – injured)
Once you begin to wrap your head around the fact you had no control and that you can’t play, the anger sets in and the racing thoughts of this could have been prevented. If I had done this or done that I’d still playing. If my linemen this or my linemen that. Should of could of would of have been in sports forever. I’m pissed that my body didn’t do what I wanted it to do when I needed it the most. My team needs me and I can’t be out there on the field going to battle. Can I get a medical red-shirt year? This is the feeling of 1 injury. Now imagine the players that can’t get out of the training room. Yes there are the constant walking wounded who now matter what the circumstance is they are always injured. So they say. Enough about them. Back to the point. If you felt this angry with one injury imagine having several over the course of your career.
Once you begin the rehab process you still carry the anger but it eventually and in some cases turns to depression very quickly depending on the severity of your injury. With the anger and depression comes the question of my value and self worth is next gem that comes in. after all you can hold a clip board and of course the metal reps that coaches often tell players to do. When I can’t perform I’m suddenly an after thought. My team can’t depend on me to play and perform. So many athletes place their entire worth into the sport the sport they have dedicated themselves to for so long they often get lost along the way, thinking they only exist to play ball. It’s a sobering place to be in when especially when 75-80% of all college athletes have at least a thought of playing professional ball somewhere and when the injury fairy pays you a visit those thoughts of you securing a bag and living the life that ESPN loves and lives to speak about goes right out the door. Many athletes aren’t able to overcome this segment of being injured.
Once you have settled in with the prospect of possibly not playing for a while and you now have a touch of depression then comes in the anxiety of building back the strength you once had. Keep in mind the rehab portion is a massive reset as all injuries have at minimum 50% loss of strength. Hitting the reset button so to speak is like a slap in the face especially to some of the weight room junkies that are used banging big weights and now have to subjected to fixing the broken parts of your body that failed you. When you begin to push things to get back on the field there is this little voice that many have in the back of their heads whispering the little “what if’s” what if you go out and re-injure yourself. What if you never return to the same form you were? What if you lose your starting spot to some scrub? Yes the anxiety that can come from rehab is almost certainly going to be there. For some it’s higher then others. Some gloss over it and only see returning to the field. As testing resumes and strength begins to come back that anxiety fades but never really goes away.
Finally, you are back to the field and you have battled back through rehab and have been cleared to resume practice. Unless you are “the man” you have to work your way back into the lineup but the biggest thing is that you have returned to the field and from that you then are able to resolve some of the depression and anxiety that accompanied you in the rehab process. Assuming you are able to return to contributing on the field your level of anger will also subside. In the 20 years I have been training athletes and rehabbing injuries this is the common path that I see many athletes struggle with as their time to play the game they love is so short.
About the Author:
Ryan Paul brings over 18 years of training experience and expertise to each client. He is one of the areas only certified Functional Range Assessment specialist as well he is a certified Functional Range Conditioning mobility specialist as well as a certified Speed and Strength coach and Corrective Exercise Specialist. He founded New Athlete in 2001 and began training athletes at local high schools, which quickly evolved to opening his first facility in 2003. He has worked with and trained more than 80 NFL players, 550+ D1 athletes, 850+ collegiate athletes, 6 All-American high school football players and over 5000 athletes from other sports. For the past seven years, New Athlete has proudly trained and worked with athletes resulting in them signing NFL, CFL, MLB or other professional contracts. Ryan is also the areas foremost expert (2002) on using the ARPwave recovery system. Ryan has spent years reading about and researching the mind-body connection, studying how that relationship allows for continued growth and development on and off the field of competition. Ryan has been married for 22 years and has four beautiful children.