By Robert B. Andrews MA, LMFT
For many athletes, coming back from a serious sports-related injury is a terrifying ordeal. They have been cleared to play physically, but their fear of suffering another injury can be debilitating. These fears can cause complications with their return to play. Many suffer from confusion, anxiety, anger, shame, and guilt. If they have been cleared to play, then why do they feel so bad? Many feel that something is wrong with them if they can’t come back confident and in a good frame of mind.
I was talking with a soccer player and one of their parents about a teammate who suffered a strained ACL. The injured athlete took time off for the injury to heal. When they returned to play, they were terrified. They were afraid of injuring their knee again and played with anxiety, fear, and apprehension. They did not play all out, and their hesitancy was apparent. It grew worse with each game. As their anxiety and fear grew, they became more emotional during the games. It was apparent to everyone watching that something was wrong.
I began to get excited at the thought of helping this athlete overcome their sports injury trauma. As I reached for a business card for the parent of the struggling athlete, I was told that during their last game, the athlete had torn their ACL completely. The field was in really bad condition, and their fear of re-injury was amplified. They were crying while trying to play soccer. They ended up in a fight for the ball and injured their knees. My heart sank when they told me this part of the story.
Too Many Sad Stories
I was on the sidelines of a football game watching a running back who had torn his ACL the year before. He was hesitating as he ran and favoring the injured knee. After the game, I told his coach that he was going to suffer an ACL injury to the other knee if he didn’t get some help with the trauma from the first injury. The next week, he tore his other ACL. [Read more…]