We talk a lot about how headspace is important for optimal outcomes across the injury spectrum. Of course with athletic injury this is no different. The cool thing we have found about it, however, is that for most athletes one of the most important things to maintaining good psychology until we get back to sport is just keeping something competitive in our lives!
Most athletes, myself included, hold strongly onto our identity of pushing ourselves as hard as possible to be the best we can. This might mean pushing out record lifts, doing well in high level tournaments, and slaying local rec-leagues. But at the end of the day we feel best when pushing ourselves. Unfortunately, after an injury we are disallowed from pushing the affected tissue the hardest. And if injured during sport, you have high odds that this means taking time off the field.
Finding an alternate outlet for this competitive spirit has a couple of huge benefits in returning to sport eventually. First off, our brain does genuinely operate under a “use it or lose it” principle as well when it comes to strategic skills. Keeping your brain under competitive pressure, even if it is video gaming, can help maintain this better for on field decision making!
Getting Better With Rehab
More importantly is the rehab side of things. Any continued competition whether it is as relaxed as darts or as intense as chair basketball, helps us maintain our athletic identity. When the brain is constantly under the goal pursuit stress, being out of this mindset can actually set us back. In return this can actually set back physical healing as well. Being able to keep up with that sense that you are still working as hard as you can at refining a skill, even if it is self competition like learning or perfecting a form of art, can help us maintain this to prevent the psychosocial impacts on biological healing from slowing us down!
At the end of the day, the biggest message and takeaway from research on this matter is “if you can’t play your sport, work hard on SOMETHING!”. What that something is for you that keeps up your drive will vary. However, make sure that your drive to perfect something still gets you up in the morning. If not, this can make getting back on the field much harder!