Learn About this Important Psychology Finding to Help with Injury Recovery
When an athlete experiences an injury, it is common for many questions, concerns, and stressors to cloud the athlete’s thinking during the rehabilitation period. One big issue centers around future playing time, and whether the athlete will make a full recovery and pick back up and play at the level he did before the injury. Fortunately, sport psychologists may be able to offer some reassurance with that question.
I’ll leave the physical rehabilitation discussion to the physicians that treat serious athletic injuries, but what I can speak on are the mental aspects of injury recovery — specifically how one theory relating to learning and memory can help. The theory of spontaneous recovery is rooted in Classical Conditioning and suggests that once we have learned a skill (i.e. how to successfully throw a curveball), even after time away from performing the skill we will more rapidly retrieve our previous memory and once again replicate the mental processes necessary for skill reproduction. In practical terms, this means that even though an injury has sidelined you, in theory you should be able to pick back up with the mindset needed to perform again on a high level (and faster than how long it took initially to learn the skill).
In essence, spontaneous recovery provides some comfort to athletes that physical healing aside, there is a really good chance that the previous sport skills will come back rather quickly once the injury has been healed. Of course, there may still be physical limitations (depending on the nature of the injury), but at least the mental abilities will still be there. This is especially good news for athletes suffering from anxiety and depression thinking about the unknown when it comes to post-injury athletic abilities, and can help with confidence development throughout the rehabilitation process.
Some other quick tips to help an injured athlete include:
- Find out as much as you can about the injury, the rehabilitation process, and likelihood for a full physical recovery.
- Keep the athlete involved with the team as much as possible, even if it’s just helping out with the coaches and staff while injured.
- Help the athletes set specific, measurable goals and keep a journal throughout the process.
- Consider professional assistance if the athlete experiences depression, anxiety, or any self-harm or reckless behaviors.
The athlete toolkit is a big help to athletes on and off the field — check it out today!