Working hard and playing harder are rewarding components all athletes seek at any level of competition. When there is inability to play because of an injury, all that hard work feels like it’s going down the drain. The mental fortitude to carry-on during this time of recovery is difficult for the majority of athletes. Clinical depression often follows a significant injury that sidelines someone from their activity of choice. For the elite or professional athlete, a serious injury can cost them their career or significant future financial opportunity.
In fact, studies have shown survivors of serious orthopaedic trauma commonly experience post-traumatic stress syndrome, depression, and anxiety. All of these conditions can interfere with functional gains in physical healing and directly compromise quality of life and more than 50% of survivors suffer psychological distress that lasts decades after the physical injury has been treated. Even with less serious injuries, anytime one’s lifestyle is significantly changed there is psychological stress and anxiety that should be addressed.
The significant psychological component in healing has been extensively researched with known effective placebo outcomes universally in medicine for multiple illnesses and injuries. Further highlighting the brain’s power in healing, a November 2015 article in The Journal of Neuroscience discovered that mindfulness meditation-induced pain relief activated higher-order brain regions compared with placebo analgesia that was associated with decreased pain-related brain activation. These findings demonstrate that mindfulness meditation reduces pain through unique brain mechanisms previously undiscovered.
Studied short-term recovery approaches to injury can include varied holistic approaches, pastoral care, coping skills, mindfulness meditation, peer visitation, and specific educational resource training. The physical and mental health of anyone recovering from an injury can be enhanced by strategies that connect the individual to a network of people with similar experiences or injuries, facilitate support groups, and promote social support networking. Likewise, rehabilitation specialists can be useful to optimize one’s outcome and quality of life as they have the knowledge and resources to utilize the aforementioned techniques.
Staying in the game…mentally. Most athletes don’t realize the mental fortitude they have developed over the years to train their body to peak for competition as the focus seems so physical with the daily grind of aches and pains and physical bumps and bruises (for some sports). But behind that physical machine is the true super computer, that cognitive cerebral mass making the decision to wake up before work to get an extra 10 miles in on their regular run; that motivation to push through an extra set of squats when you feel you have nothing left in the tank.
Learning to understand and use the mental tools you have already developed will be the key to pushing through the period of time your body needs to heal the anatomical location of injury. So how does one grasp hold of this strength? It really comes down to refocusing your energy and channeling that into another outlet. For many athletes this is not hard to do by just changing the type of physical activity to avoid the area of injury. For example, if you have a foot or ankle injury, oftentimes an activity such as cycling or swimming can be done in lieu of running, plyometrics, or other impact activities. So cross training is the simple answer, and a little creativity can go a long way. The challenge really escalates with back or core muscle injuries that are painful or limit healing when almost any activity is attempted. This is when social support and networking with professionals is a must.
In conclusion, any injury or time away from sport or physical activity you love or depend on for your livelihood can be devastating. Trying to be realistic in your expectations regarding recovery is best handled by using resources available to you; your team trainers, therapists, doctors and specialists in the field of your injury. Seeking professional care will help relieve your anxiety and allow your doctor to manage your recovery to provide the best, expedited return to the sport of your choice. A specialist can assist you with specific diagnoses and diverse modalities to refocus that energy away from the negativity that quickly traps newly or chronically injured athletes and put you back on track to perform at the top!
If you have any questions regarding your lower extremity health with regards to sports injuries or performance enhancement, we encourage a consult with one of our foot and ankle specialists. Please call us at (877) 475-1678 or visit us at www.footankleinstitute.com.
His next academic stop was Washington DC where he completed a post-bacc in biological and chemical sciences at American University, then off to the Big Apple to earn his DPM at the New York College of Podiatric Medicine.
Serving as chief resident, Dr. Volkmann completed a three-year surgical residency program in Los Angeles through the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. There, he was trained in all manners of foot and ankle care, although he took a special interest in sports medicine and surgical management.
Dr. Volkmann is available for consultation at our Valencia office.
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