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How physical therapists can help you overcome mental setbacks to return to sport

I ran across an article on the Choose PT website (provided by the American Physical Therapy Association) titled "Sports Injuries and Emotions: How Physical Therapists Can Help With Both, Plus Tips for Athletes".

This is an issue that comes with nearly all sports injuries and impacts athletes and active adults as they start to consider returning to sport. It is not always addressed well enough! However, dealing with the emotions that come with an injury and the rehab process is very important.

The articles states, "The recovery process can include bouts of anger, sadness, frustration, and lack of motivation. Most people have ups and downs but cope well. For some people, though, these mental health factors can have an impact on recovery. Part of recovery is to find ways to bring back what was positive about your sport for you."

I have even seen many patients whose physical body has healed faster than the mental and their emotional response to injury holds them back. Helping patients return to sport stronger than before, both mentally and physically, is what physical therapists do.

Here are some tips for athletes from the article:

  • "Talk to your physical therapist about your goals, anxieties, and concerns. They will listen. Often people feel better talking about their situation.

  • Set realistic goals based on guidance from your physical therapist. Work with your physical therapist to develop short- and long-term goals that move you forward.

  • Expect that you may have minor setbacks along your path to recovery. Setbacks are normal, but you might need help to overcome them. Your physical therapist can help you address these setbacks.

  • Follow instructions for how much force you can put on your injury.

  • Only begin a gradual return to your regular activity once your physical therapist says it’s safe.

  • Stay active. Your physical therapist can recommend ways to help you keep your fitness during recovery. Staying active also can reduce the mental stress of being injured.

  • Learn as much as you can about your injury and how people recover."

If you are struggling mentally with your sports rehab process, then I encourage you to speak to your physical therapist about it! If you are not currently seeing a physical therapist but you have not been able to confidently perform in your sport, then you would benefit from seeing a physical therapist. Make sure to find a good fit for you. A sports physical therapist or performance physical therapist who has experience working with athletes and active adults will have the experience to help you overcome your hurdles.

Keep showing up and taking small steps towards your goals every day!

-Dr. Sieara

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