We often forget that athletes, unlike most of the rest of us, are always one play away from a career-ending injury. Think about that for a moment — we non-athletes who leave for our jobs each day need not worry about a physical injury that could end our careers, and this is because we don’t have to be concerned about getting hit so hard by a fellow associate that we might not ever walk again, much less go to work. Athletes, on the other hand, risk injury on literally every play, including concussions, ACL injuries, and just about any other injury you can imagine. Injuries are unwanted and unplanned, and every athlete is literally one potential play away from being forced into sport retirement as a result of injury. Injured athletes are left to rehabilitate on their own without their team, deal with the physical pain of the injury, and attend to their mental health while dealing with the stress of the situation.
The impact & cost of sport injuries
Being vulnerable to injury is something every athlete knows about, but most tend to not think about since they have little control of preventing an injury (and there’s probably some superstition in that thinking, too). Unfortunately, athletes get injured everyday, and today alone many will have their sports careers end as a result. The impact of a sports injury goes far beyond some missed practices and games, and actually reaches the personal identity of many athletes. What I mean by this is that many athletes define themselves as “athlete,” and when this identity is in jeopardy because of a potential career-ending injury, the impact goes much deeper than just the physical pain associated with the injury. Who am I without sports? What will I do next? What life goals do I set now after seeing my sport goals end because of injury? As you might imagine, these questions can lead to a host of mental health issues and concerns, especially around mood state and anxiety.
Sports injuries also impact future planning, especially for those athletes who work so hard for a chance at playing in college only to see it all slip away in one play. For some young athletes, a serious injury can prevent them from earning an athletic college scholarship, and that may be the only way they were going to attain a college education. Academic scholarship students don’t lose money if they tear up their knee, but for an athlete that type of injury could be the difference in how they plan the rest of their life.
Athletes deal with a vulnerability the rest of us don’t worry much about — career-ending injuries. While we do not like to talk about this subject, it is important to understand how a sports injury can impact an athlete’s physically, but also psychologically by means of personal identity, depression, and future plans beyond sports.
Athletes will always be vulnerable to injuries, but most people do not stop and think about what that really means.
Nick Chubb injury, reminds us about the uniqueness of sports, and how one injury can change everything… These vulnerabilities do not exist in other lines of work