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How to Mentally Recover From a Sports Injury

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Here are seven tips to bounce back after a sports injury.

Recovering from a sports injury requires more than just physical therapy; there’s also psychological healing. Sports psychologist Alan Goldberg, EdD, offers seven strategies for dealing with an injury.

Go ahead and be sad — at least at first. It’s important to mourn this loss, just like any other. There’s no need to be macho.

Then, maintain a positive attitude. Once you shake off your feelings of sadness and loss, an optimistic outlook will speed the healing process while decreasing the emotional pain. Goldberg encourages his patients to repeat the mantra, “If it is to be, it is up to me.”

Focus on “what is.” “Don’t play the ‘coulda, mighta game,’” says Goldberg. You’re injured. Accept it and move forward.

Set new goals for yourself. They may be smaller at first, but that’s OK. The key is to make sure they’re achievable, and build up from there.

Take an active part in your healing. Don’t cut corners. Don’t resist or resent your physical therapy. No one’s making you do this. The only person who loses when you loaf is you.

Continue to practice and work out. Even if you’re temporarily sidelined, you can visualize playing your sport. Goldberg calls this “improving your headset.” A huge part of sports is mental, after all.

Seek out the support of your teammates. You’ll be tempted to isolate yourself. Don’t do it. Show up to that rec-league hoops game just for the camaraderie. Meet your running or biking group when they grab coffee or a beer at the end of their workout. The connection and inspiration are important.

This originally appeared in “Learning From Injury” in the July/August 2014 issue of Experience Life magazine.

For more on recovering from injury, see “Give It a Rest” and “Facing Down an Injury.”

is the author of four books, including One Shot at Forever: A Small Town, An Unlikely Coach, and a Magical Baseball Season. He lives in Berkeley, Calif., with his wife and two children.

Illustration by Alicia Buelow

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