Updated: Mar 13
An athlete's mental health can be significantly impacted by injuries, which can result in depressive and anxious thoughts. Injury related physical restrictions and prolonged healing times can cause identity loss and a feeling of isolation. Furthermore, the stress of having to compete again and perform well might make these emotions worse.
According to a study that appeared in the Journal of Athletic Training, athletes who sustained serious injuries were more likely than non-injured athletes to show signs of sadness and anxiety. A different study found that injured athletes were more likely to report having symptoms of depression and anxiety than their uninjured counterparts. This study was also published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
Injured athlete populations must prioritize both their physical rehabilitation and emotional health in order to their breakthrough. This may include going to counseling or therapy to deal with the psychological effects of the injury and the pressure to return to competing.
Additionally, injured athletes can benefit from finding new ways to engage in physical activity that are not as demanding and to maintain a sense of purpose, such as volunteering or coaching.
Developing the skill sets to be aware of the signs of depression and anxiety in injured athletes is helpful for coaches, trainers, and athletic trainers so they may refer them to appropriate mental health resources. Information and resources can be found from groups like the American Psychological Association and the National Institute of Mental Health.
It is also important to mention that mental health professionals with expertise in sport psychology can assist athletes in coping with the emotional toll of injuries. I'd also note that it may be helpful for athletes to join support groups for individuals who have experienced similar injuries. Below is a link to find a sports psychologist in your area.
Journal of Athletic Training: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5879607/
British Journal of Sports Medicine: https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/early/2018/08/01/bjsports-2018-099352
American Psychological Association: https://www.apa.org/
National Institute of Mental Health: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/