It was Friday night and the crowd was so loud you could hardly hear the whistle pierce through the air. The team huddled together, the floorboards trembled beneath their feet. As the players’ eyes tracked the black pen darting across the clipboard, Ron looked up at the clock. Three seconds left and ninety four feet from their first playoff appearance in eight years. Down by two.
It was a moment they’d imagined numerous times, on the playground, in their driveways, in the gym. But this time it was real.
The horn blew and the players braced into position. The ref relinquished the ball.
What would Ron do? Nothing.
Three weeks before, Ron side stepped to the basket for a layup, a move he’d made since he was a kid. Only this time, the ball went right, his knee went left. The MRI revealed a torn ACL. Now all the two-time all star could do was watch from the bench as the backup point guard sprinted across the floor.
Injuries are common in sports, but they can also be devastating. An injury like Ron’s requires surgery to repair the tear, followed by six to twelve months of rehab before he can return to competition.
Studies show that players who returned after a meniscus tear played at the same level they did prior to the injury, but when you can’t even bend your knee during those initial six weeks after surgery, nothing seems more impossible. While his teammates battle on the court, Ron faces his own struggles physically and mentally. It begins with regaining motor control, standing on one leg for fifteen seconds at a time, walking normally, and eventually regaining the ability to complete specific on-court drills, like stopping suddenly and pivoting from side to side.
All the while, there will be bouts of depression and anxiety that could lead to eating disorders or substance abuse if not addressed properly. When you spend most of your life dedicated to a sport, your identity is inevitably tied to it. When that identity is taken away, there is an understandable sense of loss. Add to this a diagnosis awash with medical jargon, and the feeling of confusion is only compounded with irritation and isolation. Left untreated, a player can suffer from insomnia and disengagement, only lengthening the recuperative process.
Your Mind Matters
Returning to peak level without the fear of re-injury requires mental toughness. This means exercising the mind as much as the body. It’s best to seek professional counsel for maximum results, but here are five things you can do right now to get on track:
Remember, you’re not the first athlete to suffer this injury and you won’t be the last. Medical technology has done wonders to get athletes back to pre-injury condition.
It's a Team Effort
But to ensure a full complication-free recovery, everyone needs to get involved: athlete, staff and family. As professional sports psychologists, we counsel players, train coaches, and educate trainers and players’ families.
With our visualization techniques, an athlete can see himself in competition long before his return, so when his number is called, he’ll be ready. We offer additional activities that an athlete can turn to when pent up energy needs to be released. We provide techniques to handle stressors when moments of self doubt arise, tools they can use during recovery as well as pressure situations that pop up later during a game. And finally, we demystify your diagnosis, so you know exactly what the problem is. This will give you a sense of control and purpose. Following a plan is like having a map for your road to recovery – you know you’ll get there, because you can see every step of the way.
Recovery is a team effort and everyone plays a role.
Give us a call and we can either set up a meeting at your facility or schedule a visit to our offices. Our goal is to get you back out there doing what you love, armed with practical strategies you can use during rehab, in game situations and beyond. You’re already a winner. You just need to be reminded of it sometimes.
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