How Athletes Recover From Injuries
When an athlete faces any type of injury, it impacts the player physically and mentally. With invisible injuries, an injury that is not seen or felt by others (like no cast or brace), athletes can have a harder time finding their way back to the sport. Especially in the case with concussions.
An injury like a concussion leads to a more isolating rehabilitation process. With ACL injuries or other tears, the rehabilitation process is around teammates and other players.
“In many cases these feelings are exacerbated in concussion situations as these athletes can’t participate in physical rehab. For example, someone with a torn ACL can be active in the training room and weight room and continue to rehab around teammates,” a report by the Women’s Sports Foundation wrote.
In the same report, the WSF noted that the Cleveland Clinic said kids are at a higher risk for concussions because their brains are still in development. According to the Cleveland Clinic- Concussions, high school athletes have a higher rate of concussions than college athletes. This injury can lead to a higher risk of psychological and emotional stress. Different emotional and psychological symptoms from a concussion include: higher levels of stress in terms of pain; change in routine and negative thoughts; threats to personal identity; loss of confidence because of missing out on the drills and games; reinjury fears and higher levels of anxiety and depression.
The recovery process with any injury is important. But not every injury leads to the same recovery time and has different limitations in terms of how a player can practice during their injury. For example, those who have been concussed are limited from television and screen time and avoid traveling and practices. With ACL injuries, they are more likely to be at practice and do their own physical therapy to get back to playing.
There are instances when players feel rushed coming back from concussions, unlike ACL tears. According to the WSF report, players who experienced a concussion feel pressure to return to the game quicker. They’re more isolated in their recovery process than those with injuries that are similar to an ACL tear.
“Therefore, finding social support in teammates who have experienced similar injuries, having a good relationship with medical team, or seeking out a sport psychology consultant is important,” the Women’s Sports Foundation report said. “In fact, it has been reported that athletes who have a strong social support group have followed their injury recovery plan better, experienced higher levels of motivation and applied a positive mental attitude in the rehabilitation process.”
ACL tears have a predictable time table of when an athlete can resume practice and come back to games. With concussions, there is less of a recovery structure. Athletes who suffer from a concussion go from a rigorous schedule to having to be more mindful of their activities.
According to the NCAA, “With concussion, the initial period of treatment includes both cognitive and physical rest, which counters the rigorous exercise routine many student-athletes often depend on to handle stressors. Given the emotional and cognitive symptoms associated with concussion, student-athletes often struggle with their academic demands.”
In addition, parents are told to monitor their kids’ sleeping patterns because they may change due to the concussion. In a Penn State News story, it said to report any changes to medical advisors.
When recovering from a concussion having a small routine helps one feel less isolated. Even in small doses, having activities to do and being around teammates and friends will help establish a normal routine until it is safe for the athlete to resume physical activity.
“Establish a routine and give them tasks to do around the house, like walking the dog if they are able,” Dr. Craig DiGiovanni said in an interview with Penn State News. “Sometimes we even suggest that the athletes go to practice to be with their team, even though they can’t participate. It’s a way for them to feel like they are still part of the experience.”
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