Something none of us want to hear! Alas, it frequently happens in sport and is something we have to be prepared to deal with when it occurs. My sport can be rather frustrating because sometimes the horse is well and the rider is not and vice versa. My lovely (not bias at all!) horse Finn has fractured his splint bone so missed out on one of our big aims for the season of completing our first CCI*. Luckily he did it after completing our first intermediate, but regardless, it’s still frustrating having a talented horse on rest!
There is lots of research on the psychology of an injured athlete, suggesting how important social support is to the athlete to reduce stress and facilitate motivation (Bianco, 2001). Oddly enough, while I was in the gym running this week, a sky documentary on Robert Pires, the retired French football player came on.
“You just have to get through it - coming back from an injury like that is a lonely road - you're on your own, with a fitness instructor every day” (Parlour, 2014)
In the documentary Pires mentions how lonely injury is and how you just have to get through it. It is so important to provide and have psychological support during injury. Injury can also bring surprising positive consequences, such as the athlete having more time in which they can develop other parts of their life and identity. Luckily for me, I am using this time to do lots of CPD but from an athlete’s perspective when that is your entire world and career, support at this time is crucial. It is not fair to let athletes feel lonely in this time of rest.
Unsurprisingly, research shows that injury in high level athletes leads to increased feelings of depression and anxiety as well as lower self-esteem which is maintained up to two months post injury (Leddy et al, 1994) meaning this is a crucial time to support athletes.
The research and personal accounts of injury demonstrate how tough injury can be on athlete’s mental well-being. It is vital that the support is there and hopefully psychological support is more readily available to athletes (whether amateur or elite) in order to make the road to recovery a successful one.
A good starting point is to make some initial process goals on the route to recovery (Lynne & Hardy, 2002); whether this is sport related or not, use this time to improve yourself and try other things! It is also beneficial for motivation to reflect on what you have achieved and what has gone well prior to the injury. For me, it’s a time to knuckle down and do lots of studying, attending workshops and spinning! I have also acquired enough time to take a holiday to Italy… sort of lucky me!!
Bianco, T. (2001). Social support and recovery from sport injury: Elite skiers share their experiences. Research quarterly for exercise and sport, 72(4), 376-388.
Evans, Lynne, and Lew Hardy. "Injury rehabilitation: a goal-setting intervention study." Research quarterly for exercise and sport 73, no. 3 (2002): 310-319.
Leddy, M. H., Lambert, M. J., & Ogles, B. M. (1994). Psychological consequences of athletic injury among high-level competitors. Research quarterly for exercise and sport, 65(4), 347-354.