If you're passionate about sports, fitness, or any form of physical activity, you've likely had your fair share of injuries. Whether you're a seasoned pro or just an enthusiast, injuries are an inevitable part of the journey. But here's a crucial question: Are you giving your mental health the attention it deserves during your recovery process? Studies show that “there is a known psychological response to injury that can prolong recovery from musculoskeletal injury. Mental health disorders in athletes are not only associated with an increased injury risk, but also portend poorer outcomes subsequently, including prolonged recovery times, increased rates of injury recurrence, decreased rates of return to sport, and reduced performance upon return.”
Losing your sport as an athlete is a huge blow physically, but it is also a huge blow mentally. You can feel like you’re losing your identity, your community, your friends, your mechanism to cope with life stressors… and that’s because you are (temporarily) losing all those things. Sport and exercise is tied closely to so many other things in our life that affect our mental health, and when that is taken from us the balance of our mental health shifts. If you don’t address the impact of injury on mental health, then you risk an even longer and more difficult recovery period with lasting effects even when you do return to doing what you love.
So next time you find yourself sidelined due to injury, maybe it’s time to shift your focus from the physical to the mental aspect of recovery. What are you doing to help your brain? If you’re looking for resources to help work on your mental health during injury, reach out and ask your healthcare providers. They should be well aware of how injury impacts mental health (and vice versa), and be able to point you in the right direction to get the help that your brain might need. Pain and injury and mental health are complex issues that are very individual; this blog by no means is meant to cover all of the intricacies of these topics, but rather is meant to serve as a gentle reminder to check the status of your mental health next time you’re dealing with injury. It might just be the missing link you need to come back stronger and better than before.