Tag: Mental Health

Olympians: Performing Under Pressure

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

Olympians: Performing Under Pressure 

It takes many qualities to be an Olympian; passion, determination, motivation, commitment, discipline and consistency to name a few. One important mental skill that can often be overlooked in Olympic athletes’ is mental toughness.

Mental toughness is described as the ability to cope with pressure, adversity and stress (Bull, 1996). After spending a lifetime of training and perfecting form for a single opportunity to compete in an Olympic games, Olympians can understandably feel an intense amount of pressure and stress when it comes time for their final performance. Research shows that athletes achieve the best performance results when they have more mental toughness, as measured by commonly associated attributes (Bull, 1996).

Mental strength and awareness influences many underlying mechanisms that operate in a combination to achieve a successful mindset and performance outcome. Every practice and competition begins with the way an athlete thinks and what their mindset is focused on. The quality of our thoughts is critical and can often attribute to our success or our shortcomings.

Being able to perform under pressure, such as competing at the 2018 Olympics, involves years of concentration, determination, and stability of a positive attitude to obtain mental strength. Just like practicing physical skills, practicing mental skills such as dealing with stress, performance setbacks, bad weather conditions or fatigue can impact performance. The quality of an Olympian that makes them so successful is that regardless of any implications standing in their way, they stand in the face of adversity and remain confident in their skills.  

Mental toughness is a skill any athlete can acquire that can help to positively influence performance. Studies conducted at Staffordshire University showed that athletes with high levels of confidence and control reported feeling less physical discomfort during competition and higher levels of concentration than those who had less confidence (Hamilton, 2015). This evidence supports the importance of mental toughness for performance and how significant it is to believe in yourself and your abilities.

 

References

Bull, S. J., Albinson, J. G., & Shambrook, C. J. (1996). The mental game plan: Getting psyched for sport. Eastbourne, UK: Sports Dynamics.

Hamilton, M. (2015) “How Much Does Mental Toughness Affect Race Times?” Runner’s World, 26 May 2015, www.runnersworld.com/newswire/how-much-does-mental-

toughness-affect-race-times.

 

 

 

When is Enough Enough? The Costs of Playing Through Injuries

By: Premier Sport Psychology

In the 1996 Olympics gymnast Kerri Strug sprained her ankle on her first vault landing. All she needed to earn a gold medal was a clean vault, which was exactly what she did after spraining her ankle: Strug performed a vault with an injury, landing on one foot. Competing or performing with an injury is common in world of athletics at any level. Strug’s story, as well as many other athletes who have overcome adversity, hold not only a special place in history but also in the eyes of society. The athletes are looked up to as heroes for sacrificing their bodies for the glory of a win. This mentality contributes to the pressure many athletes face to play through an injury at all costs, and negatively contributes to their bodies and mental health. Hiding injuries and/or playing through the pain is not only hurting the injury and prolonging it, but could also lead to more serious problems later on.

From athletes’ perspectives, they are training to control and master their bodies. When injuries occur they may view it as just another part of the body that needs to perform a certain way. An injury may also cause them to view their body as something to fight against. The injury may seem like a form of betrayal because their body is not cooperating with the demands, but in reality the body is telling the host that it needs a break.

Athletes tend to avoid their injuries because they do not want to take time off. For professional athletes, playing through injuries is the norm—their sport is their job, and if they have to take time off, many feel as though they aren’t fulfilling their responsibilities. This, as well as the threat of being replaced, factors in to playing while they are injured. It’s reasonable that they play through injuries; they have everything riding on their athletic abilities. As a result, if the injury is something that won’t end their career, they will risk their health for the reward. However, even though athletes play through the pain very often at this level, they are aware of potential risks. Athletes view those who can accept that they are injured as brave. Former NBA player Alvin Williams stated, “They’re the real courageous ones, because they’re the ones who are going to be able to come back. They’re setting an example that they’re more than an athlete. And, paradoxically, that’s what’s going to make the best athlete, the best organization, the best everything.” Athletes know that playing on an injury is not the best option yet this is not what they are taught or encouraged to do.

In a study of 3,000 athletes, coaches, and parents, 42% of youth athletes said that they have hidden injuries so they could play, which could lead to more serious complications as they grow up. Kate Carr, the president of Safe Kids Worldwide sums it up perfectly, “The awareness we have about injuries and the risk to our children is not matching the behavior that we’re seeing on the field.” Although winning is an important aspect of sports, it should not be something to risk children’s health for. The restriction requiring athletes to be pulled if they have a suspected concussion and the reduction of contact and checking in youth sports are both steps in the right direction for the reduction of injuries as a whole. Now the task is to create an atmosphere where it is the norm to report injuries.

In “Playing through the pain: Psychiatric risks among athletes,” Drs. Samantha O’Connell and Theo C. Manschreck look at the vulnerability in athletes regarding psychiatric health. One of the factors that drives this is how athletes express pain (which for many cases they don’t). Hiding physical injuries could be the gateway into athletes hiding other health issues as well, specifically related to mental health. Athletes may fear that seeking help will make them look weak and threaten their status as an athlete or with their team. This could lead to further problems with their mental health. O’Connell and Manschreck state that playing through pain may be influenced by pressures from coaches, scholarships or parents, but ultimately it has to do with the pressures the athletes puts on themselves to achieve.

When athletes view injury as a weakness both to their identity as an athlete and their performance, this can cause greater health issues regarding injury as well as mental health. Advise your athletes to sit it out if they are in doubt. While sitting out may not be fun for a game or two, it is better than never playing again or having it affect you or your athletes off the field. This view of injury in professional sports may not change soon, but you have the ability to change how you and/or your athletes view injury.

Alexa-Jane Hoidahl

At Last, Sleep For Everyone

By: Premier Sport Psychology

Ask anyone how many hours of sleep, on average, they get per night. What do they get? Somewhere between 5-7, if you’re lucky.

Then ask a doctor how many hours of sleep, on average, you should be getting per night. What’s their answer? Somewhere around 8, but with a push towards getting somewhere closer to 10.

So then ask anyone what their response to that recommendation is. What’s that going to look like? Something along the lines of “Yeah, right” but probably with some more expletives worked in. But then what if I told you that there’s some new research happening at Harvard that might end insomnia forever, and make it so everyone could get the sleep they need? Now we’re talking, right?

Sure enough, the work of Dr. Patrick Fuller is maybe getting us to exactly that point. Dr. Fuller is working on sleep medication to help ensure full, rich nights of sleep. And not the ‘full night’s sleep’ that current sleep medication provides that leaves you groggy upon waking up or is indefinite in the time you’ll be able to wake up–there is the potential for this medication to help cure insomnia outright, some researchers believe.

So naturally the question becomes: How? Fuller is using research that dates all the way back to 1950’s, changing the way that sleep medication affects the brainstem. By counteracting the brainstem’s traditional function of “wake-promoting,” Fuller and his team are helping to make sleep come more automatically, make it deeper, and most importantly make it actually restful. According to the researchers, advancements on this research could even ultimately induce sleep. Not just deep and rejuvenating sleep, but deep and rejuvenating sleep whenever you want or need it. Cheers to you, Dr. Fuller.

But so what does this mean for athletics and sport psychology? The lives of athletes are busy; when you’re not training, studying film, eating, maintaining diet and exercise logs, or completing rehabilitation and recovery exercises, chances are you’ve still got lots left to do that isn’t directly involved with being an athlete. There’s a nearly constant struggle of time-management, and for most athletes the thing is sacrificed is the same: sleep. This lack of sleep, though, is all sorts of detrimental to physical performance. To expect an athlete to be at their best, when operating on a night of no sleep is the equivalent of operating with a BAC of .10 or higher, is absurd. And while Dr. Fuller didn’t necessarily have athletes specifically in mind while he conducted his research, he’s still doing a world of good for athletes all over.

Get sleep when you can get it; ample hours of rest can be one of the most important things for healthy functioning. But in a world where it’s not always feasible to get your doctor-recommended 8 hours of sleep, Dr. Fuller might have the next best thing.

Click here to read more about Dr. Fuller’s research.

Learn to Listen to Yourself

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

NPR radio recently broadcast a segment called “Why Saying is Believing – The Science of Self-Talk”.  If you think it sounds like a waste of your time, you might need to change your self-talk. Laura Starecheski investigates the messages we send ourselves and the implications these messages have on our daily lives. While it may seem like a simple feat, the ability to use positive self-talk on a consistent basis is easier said than done. However, this skill–when mastered–can have major benefits on our well-being and can lead us to feeling “sexier, more successful, have better relationships, and even help start a money making business and chase dreams [we] didn’t even know [we] had.” Starecheski investigates these claims by finding leading researchers in their fields and picking their brains on…well, how we pick on our brains. David Sarwer from the University of Pennsylvania specializes in research on eating disorders and immediately places a mirror in front of patients when he begins working with them. He encourages them to stray away from using harsh, critical vocabulary when describing themselves, and instead incorporate more neutral references that help them reframe their negative thoughts. While listening to the program, I began thinking, “Yes, I see the value in this… However, they are still just thoughts…and how harmful can thoughts truly be?” 

Shortly after, my question was answered.

A study conducted in the Netherlands analyzed anorexic subjects, and noticed that while women walked though doorways they turned their shoulders and squeezed sideways even though they had plenty of room.  This was an indicator that their internal representation of themselves was that they were much bigger than they were in reality.  Studies like this (i.e., those that show the tremendous effects self-talk can have on our physical world) are not uncommon. So how do we overcome these small thoughts that can become big problems? Ethan Cross of the University of Michigan suggests that the use of third person self-talk may be a trick to help “rewire” our brains.  Cross uses Lebron James as an example of using third person self-talk.  n an exit interview in 2010, Lebron James talked about leaving Cleveland for the Miami Heat:

“One thing I didn’t want to do was make an emotional decision. And I wanted to do what was best for Lebron James, and what I could do to make Lebron James happy.”

In this instance, he was able to distance himself from his emotions and look at a situation from a more neutral, logical standpoint. Cross furthered this idea with research of his own, confirming what he had already hypothesized. When people used third person self-talk and referred to themselves by name rather than “me” or “I”, subjects were significantly more rational, less emotional and were able to provide themselves with encouragement and advice.

Our self-talk shapes not only our internal world but our external world as well.  More often than you may think, the internal representations we create of ourselves are vastly different than reality. The skill of developing healthy, positive self-talk is not only beneficial, but also vital for our well-being and success. If you think otherwise, ironically you may just be the perfect candidate for strengthening your self-talk.

 

 

 

 

Success with Sport Psychology: A Comparison of The 2014 Baltimore Orioles and Chicago Cubs

By: Premier Sport Psychology

Entering the 2014 Major League Baseball post-season, two of baseball’s longest streaks were going strong: the Baltimore Orioles had not made it to the playoffs in 28 years, and the Chicago Cubs had not won a World Series championship since 1908. For one of these teams, the start of the post-season marked a change in history. The 2014 Baltimore Orioles won the American League East Division and entered the American League playoffs as the #2 seed. The 2014 Chicago Cubs finished with a 73-89, earning them last place in the National League Central Division and ensuring their streak would continue.

So what ties the two together? In 2014, the Baltimore Orioles utilized a sport psychologist as a part of their professional staff. In 2014, the Chicago Cubs fired their sport psychologist. There are a lot of factors that go into whether or not a baseball team is going to be successful. It depends on things like the schedule they play, the players they have, the weather they face during the season…and countless other aspects. There is no one recipe for having a successful baseball program. However, if you asked the Orioles themselves, they’d tell you first hand that a sport psychologist is an important ingredient.

“We never had anybody we could really go to or talk to before,” said Zach Britton, part of the Orioles pitching rotation. “You know, we always talk among each other, but if we are all having a tough stretch, you are all thinking negatively, you don’t really have someone outside the situation you can go to and talk to because he has a different perception.”

It’s not just the players–the coaches are all in too. After considering off-season changes that could happen, the coaching staff decided that having a sport psychologist on staff that could address the concept of “mental toughness” was a piece that the Baltimore players could benefit from.

Said Rick Peterson, pitching director for the team, “It’s huge…It was really educational for the players to talk about [motivation, anxiety, goal-setting].”

They had no idea just how right they would be. The Baltimore Orioles took the 2014 season by storm, winning a competitive division with the likes of the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees, and then entering the post-season itself with a decisive sweep in the ALDS. Look for the Orioles to continue to make a strong post-season push, confident and mentally strong all the while.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Cubs are right where they seem to have been stuck the last number of years. With management changes (and with them, personnel changes), the clubhouse that has seen so much adversity in their long history seems to be looking at even more. The Cubs shouldn’t be entirely discredited just yet, though. President Theo Epstein has made it clear that he intends to bring another sport psychologist back onto the staff as soon as possible. Hopefully, all has not been lost. Maybe they’ll even end up being the team that makes the big push.

In any event, we can be certain of two things: 1) what the 2014 Baltimore Orioles are doing is special, thanks at least in part to their sport psychologist, and 2) the Chicago Cubs are in the process of rebuilding, and with talks of bringing a sport psychologist on again, the future seems to be bright.

Positively Parenting Your Athlete

By: Premier Sport Psychology

This post was most recently updated on July 25th, 2018

These days, it can be really hard to know how to best parent your athlete in a way that will help them reach their full potential…

Parental “Pressure Cooker”

It seems that more and more of our focus has shifted to performance outcomes and pushing kids to excel in sports, rather than ensuring that they are having fun. Signs that your child may be being pushed too hard in sport: 1) they express to you, peers, or coaches that they are no longer having fun, 2) they report that they no longer want to compete or participate in the sport, 3) they seem to have lost motivation (e.g., to attend practice or work hard), or 4) they display increased anxiety about participating in sport. Creating a healthy balance between having fun and focusing on improvement and success in and out of sport should be the goal for kids. 

Assess the coach and the sport environment and make sure both sufficiently support/encourage your child in a way that fosters life skills and overall positive development, rather than solely emphasizing winning. Youth coaches who over-stress winning are at greater risk of neglecting a young athlete’s personal development and not prioritizing their emotional best interests. Youth athletes who drop out or burnout of sport will more often report that they perceived their coach to be controlling, too focused on winning, and not very encouraging. Look for coaches who provide appropriate reinforcement and praise, encouragement after mistakes, and quality instruction.

Parents can play a huge role in creating a beneficial sport environment for their children! Kids are more prone to burnout when their parents criticize their sport performance and have exceedingly high expectations for them. Numerous studies demonstrate that children who perceive support, encouragement, and less pressure from parents, exhibit more internal motivation, sport enjoyment, and a preference to be challenged.

Compare & Despair

Most athletes–especially teenagers–naturally compare themselves to their peers. Many parents do the same with their children. This behavior is normal. However, communicating comparisons to your child may cause them to feel defeated, “less than,” or as though they have disappointed others. Comparing is easy to do, yet it is rarely motivating/helpful for athletes when it comes from parents.

Put Mistakes into Perspective

Very simply, be supportive of your athlete’s effort and point out aspects of the performance that you were proud of or areas they improved in. Emphasize that wins/losses are not a reflection of them as a person (i.e. what they do is not reflective of who they are), but just a measure of performance for any given moment. Many aspects of both winning and losing are actually out of our control. Elements such as skill level of the competition, equipment, coaches’ decisions, and injury are out of an athlete’s control, yet contribute to whether they win or lose. Emphasize the importance of focusing on those aspects they have control over–such as preparation, effort, concentration, confidence, and skill–and use these as a measure of improvement/performance. Show your athlete that you value these over winning or scoring high. Help them focus on the process versus the outcome! Dealing with adversity can be positive in that it can help shape an athlete’s mindset for future competitions, such as building resiliency, learning from mistakes, and learning to cope with frustration.

 

In summary, here’s some key points to help positively parent a youth athlete:

1. Creating a healthy balance between having fun and focusing on improvement and success in and out of sport should be the goal for kids. 

2. Look for coaches who provide appropriate reinforcement and praise, encouragement after mistakes, and quality instruction.

3. Kids are more prone to burnout when their parents criticize their sport performance and have exceedingly high expectations for them.

4. Comparing is easy to do, yet it is rarely motivating/helpful for athletes when it comes from parents.

5. Help youth athletes focuso n the process versus the outcome

 

 

Mental Preparation For Your Game

By: Premier Sport Psychology

While there are techniques and suggestions for mental preparation, the biggest thing to remember is that the best mental preparation for any game will come from both trusting your physical training and being aware of what it is you do mentally when you perform at your best. Mental preparation for a game will vary by the individual. For example, one athlete may prepare best by listening to music on their own and conversing with others minimally before a game. On the other hand, another athlete may need to talk and interact with others to prepare. Neither approach is right nor wrong. The trick is to key-in on what works on an individual level and channel your preparation through that. That being said, here are a few preparations strategies to try and see if they work for you:

Mindfulness:  Mindfulness has been shown to significantly increase athletes’ performance. Before a game, your brain can be going in a million different directions–what mindfulness does is center your attention on the immediate moment without judging the moment as “good” or “bad.” When we do this, we allow ourselves to channel our energy into our performance and take it moment to moment and be less critical of ourselves while competing. We are less distracted and more focused.

Imagery & Self-Talk:  Before a game, try closing your eyes and watch yourself on a highlight reel. See yourself being successful in all facets of your sport, competing exactly how you want to. Any time a negative thought seeps in, notice it and let it pass. Replay those positive thoughts over in your head to help build your confidence. Focus on what you do well. Your self-talk tells you whether you can or cannot do something, and the effect it has on your actual performance is profound.

Stay Focused on the Process & the Controllables: Lots of athletes get caught up in thinking about the outcome of the game before they go out to compete (e.g., score, win/loss, making the line-up, how they play, etc.) rather than focusing on the PROCESS of performing well. The PROCESS is all the how-to parts of playing a great game (e.g., staying relaxed, confident play, good communication on the field, aggressive start, holding form, quick feet, etc.)! We know that athletes who focus on the process and let the outcome take care of itself, actually perform better. Try not to get sucked into worrying about the uncontrollable aspects of the game (e.g., the weather, ref calls, opponents’ skill level, coach’s decisions, etc.). Rather, before and during a game, zone-in on what you can control such as your attitude, effort, preparation and mindset!

Mindfulness and Flow in Elite Athletes

By: Premier Sport Psychology

Background:

This study sought out to examine the relationship between mindfulness and states of flow in elite athletes. To learn more about flow, click here. In doing so, the researchers were able to test the validity of a mindfulness measure, replicate and extend past research, and look closer at relationships of mindfulness and flow in:

  • Individual vs. Team Sport
  • Pacing vs. Nonpacing Sports
  • Males vs. Females

By the Numbers:

92 athletes from the South Australian Sports Institute and the Australian Institute of Sport participated in the study. There was a representation of males and females from 12 different sports. Athletes used two measures, the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire and the Dispositional Flow Scale-2 for assessment purposes.

Take Away Messages:

Results of this study provided evidence that the relationship between mindfulness and flow may be slightly higher in individual-pacing sports compared to team-based nonpacing sports. Mindfulness could possibly be related to different facets of flow in males compared to females. This information makes an argument that mindfulness and states of flow may be more obtainable on an individual basis. No different than any skill for athletes, it is important to know what works for you and how to get into “the zone.”

References:

Carthcart, S., McGregor, M., & Groundwater, E. (2014).  Mindfulness and Flow in Elite Athletes. Journal of Clinical Sport Psychology, (8), 199-141.

The Social Stigma about Sport Psychology

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

As world views alter, acceptance for those who contrast our own appearance and ideologies steadily increases. Why is it then, that the thought of being mentally unhealthy is so frightening? The mind is undoubtedly complex. Complications with the organ that is responsible for so many aspects of our body should not be a monumental bombshell. Perfection is impossible, resulting with everyone’s brain being slightly different. Of course, some people pose a greater risk in developing a mental illness – not excluding athletes. The vulnerability that mental illness creates is not an image anyone wants to elicit – especially not an athlete whose whole being is to be stronger than their competitors.

Mental illnesses in sport are often overlooked. Part of that is a result of societal expectations. “Mental health has a stigma that is tied into weakness and is absolutely the antithesis of what athletes want to portray.” Stated by Dr. Thelma Dye Holmes, it shows that many athletes are idealized for their work and are placed into positions as role models; they are people who physically go above and beyond what others would do (Vickers). To be labeled as anything less than the perfection they aspire to be is damaging. But why does seeking help have to be viewed in this way? Sport psychology is tailored to athletes – even those who are no longer competing. At every level, athletes should understand the fundamentals of mental health and know how to implement coping strategies when necessary.

Stress, anxiety, and depression are all felt to some degree by athletes, particularly during competition. When they are put in high pressure scenarios and then expected to perform at their peak each time, relying on the physical aspects of the body is not enough. Training the mind and body together gives a competitive edge that is more powerful than the body alone. Four-time Ironman champion Chrissie Wellington discusses with CNN how her mind is the greatest tool in her arsenal. “The brain is the master computer of the body. Even when we are working on the efficiency of the peripheral components – the legs, the arms, the butt cheeks – we can recruit the seat of all power to enhance the effectiveness of our work.” (Wellington). She goes on to say that there is an obsession with log books and data, to track how far the athlete has come, but the body can only handle so much discomfort until the brain has to take over. When it becomes overbearing, a sick mind won’t be help the athlete strive to their peak. Doubt will be created, and with that, the athlete will falter.

In addition, when the body is under stress, so is the mind. Fatigue, depression, and anxiety stem from this stress, which in turn increases cortisol levels. Neuroscientists at the University of California, Berkley have found that chronic stress and cortisol lead to damage within the brain. Their research has uncovered that the fatty tissue surrounding axons, known as white matter, increases in number the more exposed a person is to stress. The severity of this phenomenon is not fully understood, although it is agreed that an increase in white matter decreases the efficiency for communication in the brain leading to problems with memory, decision making, and emotions. They are now looking into how white matter affects such brain disorders as schizophrenia, autism, depression, ADHD, and PTSD (Bergland). A future goal for psychologists and scientists alike is not just to treat these disorders, but to provide information to the public on how to prevent them. Despite opinions of mental illness, getting help when needed is without a doubt the best option for improvement.

The stigma society afflicts on seeking help, whether it’s from professionals or a trusted person, prevent people from reaching their full athletic and mental potential. A sound body needs a sound mind to operate it; avoiding treatment will never fix the problem. There are resources out there to help those in need. Utilizing them doesn’t lessen a person’s worth or abilities, it simply helps strengthen them.

 

References:

  1. Bergland, C., (2014, February 12). Chronic Stress can Damage Brain Structure and Connectivity. Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201402/chronic-stress-can-damage-brain-structure-and-connectivity
  2. Vickers, E., (2013, December 19). The Stigma of Mental Health; is it Increased for Athletes?. Retrieved from http://www.thesportinmind.com/articles/the-stigma-of-mental-health-is-it-increased-for-athletes/
  3. Wellington, C., (2012, July 13). Ironman Champ: Your Mind Matters More. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2012/07/13/health/mind-over-matter-wellington/index.html

 

 

The Mental Side of a Physical Injury

By: Premier Sport Psychology

Imagine this: You are an athlete – and not just any athlete – an elite athlete.  You are a highly successful player in the sport of your choosing.  The highlight of your day includes stepping onto the field, ice, or court.  The sport drives you, and it serves as your passion for countless years.  Many of your best memories come from your sport, but so do a few of your worst.  After suffering from 5 concussions, you have limited your ability to focus for more than a ten-minute span.  Having a dim light on causes you pounding headaches.  Feeling faint and dizzy has become apart of your physiology. And worst of all, the thought of getting back into the sport you can’t live without shoots a bout of anxiety and fear ripping down your spine.  It does not take an athlete to understand the effects of an injury due to sport.  It does however, take the right knowledge to understand how to best treat those injuries.  A study published by the Journal of Sport and Health Science in 2012 open the topic by saying:

“Sport injuries frequently have profound negative consequences on the physical health of sports participants.  They also have the potential to cause a great deal of psychological disturbance through increased anger, depression, anxiety, tension, fear, and decreased self-esteem.  Sport injuries often result in an immediate imbalance and disruption to the lives of the injured athletes including loss of health and achievement of athletic potential.”

The study is quick to note that while there are serious physical implications that follow an injury, there are serious, and often times more detrimental, psychological effects.  Laura Reese, Ryan Pittsinger, and Jingzhen Yang sought out to decipher what steps psychologists can take to help restore the most crucial component in recovery: an athlete’s mind.  The study targeted populations of injured competitive and recreational athletes age 17 years and older by using interventions commonly used in sport psychology.  The interventions included imagery, goal-setting, relaxation, micro-counseling, written disclosure, and acceptance and commitment therapy.  The interventions showed promising results.  Guided imagery/relaxation was associated with improved psychological coping and reduced re-injury anxiety.  Psychological techniques such as micro-counseling, acceptance and commitment therapy, and written disclosure demonstrated effectiveness in reducing negative psychological consequences, improving psychological coping, and reducing re-injury anxiety. While seemingly small, these improvements may be exactly what an athlete needs to get back to where they want to be.

The reality of injuries in sports is that too often the process of recovery turns a blind eye to the single strongest operating force in our bodies: our brains.  While we work daily to subdue concussion symptoms, heal a broken bone, or undergo surgery to repair a tendon, we forget that the component driving that recovery in the first place lies in our head.  The encouragement of psychological repair must be reinforced by psychologists, doctors, social support and the athletes themselves.  Using interventions such as those demonstrated in this study may provide the foundation needed to get athletes back in competition both more timely and safely.  The importance of mental stability during a physical injury could not be more crucial.  You would never allow an athlete to go back to competition with a broken collarbone.  They are simply not ready.  Think twice before sending an athlete – or yourself – into competition before mentally ready.  You may not be able to see the injury, but that is an injustice of equal offense.

 

By Bethany Brausen

 

Reference:

Effectiveness of psychological intervention following sport injury. Journal of Sport and Health Science, 1, 71-79.