The Psychological Effects of Sports Injuries (and How to Respond to Them)

Dr. Corey Fox
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Director of Massapequa Podiatry Associates

Getting a sports injury is bad enough on its own. Nobody wants to endure the pain that comes with, say, constant heel pain to a full-on broken bone.

But the toll these injures take isn’t always purely physical. Depending on the severity of an injury, or how it can specifically affect someone’s life, there can be psychological consequences to address as well.

If you are frequently active, it is almost an inevitability that a sports injury will affect you at one time or another—and good odds that injury will occur in your feet or ankles. The ultimate goal treating such an injury is to get the patient back to doing the activities they love as effectively and safely as possible, and that involves confidence in both body and mind.

The Value of Movement

For someone who performs on a competitive level, a sports injury can be a particularly tough emotional blow.

It is very understandable to see why in many of these cases. An athlete has invested so much of their time and effort into continuous improvement. Any sort of injury that interferes with this mission can cause a wide range of feelings:

  • Frustration. – “There’s no way something like this should stop me!”
  • Fear – “What if I can’t play in the next big game/run in the marathon I’ve been training for/etc.?”
  • Depression – “I’ve let down my team/my coach/my family/my parents/myself.”

For some, the sports and activities they love are their way of relieving stress, finding freedom, and getting away from things for a while. When their ability to expend energy that way is diminished, it can be easy for them to feel “trapped” in an unfair situation where they have lost access to their escapes.

For others, athletic performance has been such a huge investment of time, spirit, and other precious resources that a heavy amount of self-worth is tied to their abilities. The thought of those abilities being diminished or lost—and progress toward future goals grinding to a halt—can be crushing.

Everyone is unique, and responds to injuries in their own way. It is important for everyone involved with treating such a condition to be aware of the patient’s feelings—and this includes the patient themselves.

It is OK to have feelings about an injury. However, the ways we process, respond to, and cope with these feelings can have good or bad effects.

How We Approach Sports Injuries

At Massapequa Podiatry Associates, we make the long-term comfort and mobility of our patients a top priority, regardless of their athleticism.

Sometimes this means an athlete will need to spend time resting away from activity to properly recover from a sports injury. Jumping the gun and returning to certain activities too soon can risk re-injury; and the effects of that tend to be even worse and longer lasting than the initial problem.

That said, we do not just sit by and force an athlete to carry out recovery like a prison sentence. We understand how important it is to many athletes to stay active—to keep doing something.

While a patient still not be ready to engage in certain activities that would place too much stress on the foot and ankle, there may—depending on the situation—be opportunities to engage in lower-impact activities or cross-training instead. We highly encourage a safe and effective plan.

We also have a variety of treatment options that have often been used by athletes to accelerate their body’s natural recovery abilities, including K-Laser and Amniovo. These options may not be the right choice for everyone, but we will fully discuss the pros and cons of them with you if they can be considered.

Coping with Injury and Recovery

In the case of most sports injuries, a patient can eventually make a full recovery and get back to their original performance levels after some conditioning and rehabilitation.

However, some more severe cases may take a long time to recover or may result in a patient never having quite the same level of performance they had before.

In situations such as these, it is important that a patient can feel open regarding their responses to such news, and has access to proper means of coping with them, should they need to. If negative emotions and lines of thought are buried deep inside and left to fester, they can lead to further problematic reactions. These may include:

  • Disturbance of sleep.
  • Changes in appetite (often a reduction, as the person may not feel they “deserve” to eat if they aren’t moving as much).
  • Disengagement and isolation.
  • Irritability that may burst into excessive anger or rage.
  • Substance abuse.

If you see signs of any of the above in a loved one, consultation with a therapist or mental health professional is recommended.

Massapequa’s Experts in Foot & Ankle Recovery

When a sports injury strikes, we do all we can to provide as fast, effective, and complete a recovery as possible. Just like you, we like to see you do the things you love to the best of your abilities!

Schedule an appointment with our office by calling (516) 541-9000. If you prefer electronic correspondence, our online contact form is always open. Fill it out and a member of our staff will respond to you during office hours.

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