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Planning for Injury Recovery

If there’s one constant in high school sports, it’s change, as the saying goes. If there’s a second constant, it’s injuries. From nagging aches and pains to sudden season ending injuries that require surgery, coaches will deal with the ramifications and effect of these events each and every season.

Coaches who are fortunate enough to have athletic training coverage will be spared much of the medical side of dealing with injuries. But, as explained on a post on the Ohio University online masters program website, all coaches need to have a plan for helping athletes recover after injury strikes.

The first step involves making sure the athlete understands the injury. Between the complicated medical jargon they hear and the myths and misconceptions offered by well-meaning friends and relatives—not to mention all the emotions that come with being hurt—it can be hard for a high schooler to really grasp what their injury is about. The post recommends taking your time when you go over details of the injury with the athlete. After sharing what you know with the athlete, or splitting the task with a sports medicine professional, wait for the athlete to respond before proceeding with the discussion. This provides time for the athlete to absorb the information and their response can offer a gauge on how well they understood it. This is also a good time to reassure the athlete that the injury was not their fault and they will likely be able to return to play.

It’s also important for both the coach and athlete to remember that the recovery process will have both a physical and psychological component and the psychological may be the more challenging in the long run. “As rehab progresses, it is common for an athlete to be physically ready for competition, but not psychologically ready. This is often due to a lack of confidence in the surgical repair. Many athletes become afraid that any stress on the repaired limb will only re-injure it.”

To help ease the athlete’s fears, coach can remind them of the care and skill the doctors have used to treat the injury. They can also emphasize the hard work the athlete has put into rehab and the science behind the rehab protocol. Ironically, fear of future injury may increase the risk of such injury should it lead the athlete to move in unnatural ways.

Fortunately, there are some steps coaches can take to help athlete regain the confidence they had before the injury. One is to suggest the athlete use visualization. By seeing themselves performing different drills, plays, and techniques post-injury, they can build their confidence so their mind is ready once the body has recovered. They can also modify drills to accommodate the injured area. This can keep the athlete connected to their team and sport during the rehab process. For example, following a knee injury, a baseball player may be able to throw from a seated position. Or a football player with a shoulder injury may be able to ride a stationary bicycle or do lower-body exercises to keep their strength and conditioning levels up.

The article also discusses the importance of goals during the rehab process. It suggests setting goals related to recovery, return to play, and the initial time they are back in competition. By focusing on these goals, athletes may avoid some of the negative emotions that accompany an injury and it may prevent from focusing on any physical limitations, be they real or perceived.

One other note: try to keep injured athletes as involved and engaged with the team as possible. The recovery process is a trying time in the best of circumstances and isolating the athletes from their teammates only increases the challenges. Coaches may want to encourage athlete to attend practices regularly and sit on the bench for games even if the athlete is reluctant to do so. In any case, coaches should reassure the athlete they are still part of the program.

Click here to read the full article.

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