Kobe Bryant breaking a bone in his knee after coming back from a torn Achilles tendon, Derrick Rose tearing a cartilage after returning to play after a torn ACL, and Lindsey Vonn partially tearing her ACL after returning from a complete ACL tear all reveal the gap in the recovery process for athletes returning to play after suffering serious sports-related injuries. Athletes return to competition after being cleared to play physically, but their mental and emotional readiness is not part of the current treatment model for athletes returning to play.
Addressing sports-related injuries’ mental and emotional impact helps athletes face surgery with a confident and positive mindset. They handle surgery better. They approach their recovery process with more focus and intensity. They also return to play without the conscious or unconscious fear of re-injury.
Kobe suffered a torn Achilles tendon last season and attempted to return to play at the beginning of this NBA season. Kobe was cleared to play as “100%” by his doctors and athletic training staff. A few games into the season, he tweaked his hamstring. A few games after that, his comeback and his season ended when he broke a bone in his knee.
Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose suffered a similar fate. He tore his ACL last NBA season. After a prolonged recovery, he returned to play at the start of this season. A few games in, he tweaked his hamstring. The following week, he tore a cartilage in his other knee. His return to play this season is questionable at best.
Olympic gold medalist Lindsey Vonn tore her ACL in skiing practice training. After surgery and an intense rehab process, she returned to training, only to partially tear the ligament again. She is trying to make it through the Olympic Trials without entirely tearing the ligament.
When an athlete suffers a serious injury, a part of the brain called the limbic system is activated. The job of the limbic system is to keep the athlete safe. In the case of a serious sports-related injury, it means keeping the athlete safe from re-injury. When the limbic system is engaged, athletes will consciously and unconsciously make adjustments to protect the injured area. With these adjustments, stress and torque move to other areas of the body. From the ankle to the knee, from the knee to the hamstring or back, from the elbow to the shoulder. [Read more…]