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4 ways to support an injured athlete

4 ways to support an injured athlete

3 min read
  • Sport psychology

There are two types of athletes. Those who are injured and those who aren’t injured yet. So which athletes are most likely to be injured and how can we best help them?

What are the key predictors of injury?

Research has shown that there are some key and clear predictors of which athletes are likely to get injured. These include those who have a history of injury and those who are experiencing high levels of stress. Furthermore, those who have poor coping skills whilst injured are also far more likely to get injured again. 

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Injuries and stress

Stress causes changes to our brain’s normal functioning, leading to a decreased flow of information between our thoughts and our actions. This bottleneck negatively influences our decision making, which in turn increases the likelihood of injury.

An interesting study has shown that emotional reactivity to these negative emotions causes decreased activity in the area of the brain where attention is managed, resulting in increased risk of injury due to additional attentional load.

When a negative event occurs, stress can be associated with it. With decision making and attention being negatively impacted by stress, research has shown that athletes are more likely to then put themselves in situations beyond their capacity to control, and in doing so putting themselves at higher risk of injury.

How to Help Injured Athletes

4 ways to help injured athletes

1. Set Goals 

Goal setting can help athletes follow their rehabilitation programmes by providing focus and motivation. A short term goal can provide focus whereas a long term goal helps maintain motivation during tough times.

2. Communicate

Understand the psycho-social pressures being experienced by the athlete. Offer encouragement and be empathetic in your approach. This helps athletes reduce any ambiguity and doubt about what they need to do in order to come back better than before.

3. Education

When athletes are educated about the treatment of their injury they are more likely to believe in the efficacy of the treatment. Knowing is always better than not knowing, as uncertainty is a breeding ground for stress, frustration and anxiety.

4. Offer support 

Arrange for the athlete to talk to or meet up with athletes experiencing the same injury problems. It offers them a chance to understand they are not the only ones in that situation. Isolated athletes struggle, so by building a team around you, you benefit from having a wealth of different experiences in your armoury.

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Final thoughts

Injury happens. But by helping athletes to perceive their negative situations in a more positive way (even looking at the upsides of injury can help), we can help them avoid and recover from injury more effectively. The challenge for all athletes when injured, is can they be the best injured athlete possible. 

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About the editor

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch is a Chartered Psychologist and a leading expert on illuminating Cognitive Science research in education. As Director at InnerDrive, his work focuses on translating complex psychological research in a way that is accessible and helpful. He has delivered thousands of workshops for educators and students, helping improve how they think, learn and perform. Bradley is also a prolific writer: he co-authored four books including Teaching & Learning Illuminated and The Science of Learning, as well as regularly featuring in publications such as The Guardian and The Telegraph.

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