Your Health, Your Actions

An athlete's mind and characteristics determine how positively or negatively they respond to an injury.

Published November 22, 2011 12:00

Your Health, Your Actions
Juan Martin del Potro

Why do some people respond to an injury with an increase in optimism and effort when others struggle with negative thoughts and emotions or fail to follow the recommended treatment program? The answer lies in the mind and characteristics of the athlete.


When an injury occurs, every person experiences cognitive (thoughts) and emotional (feelings) responses. These thoughts and feelings are influenced by the individual's beliefs, which may or may not be true, about the situation. What the individual thinks and feels influences his/her actions and behavior during treatment and recovery.


Recovery from injury is an ongoing process that the individual can influence with his/her actions.

An ability to persevere, even when the treatment is difficult or painful, to be optimistic about the ultimate outcome and to be self-confident are characteristics that improve an individual's chances of making a successful recovery. Take responsibility for your health and become an active participant in your healing journey. Make sure you practice Champion Recovery Characteristics next time you are injured.



KNOWLEDGE IS POWER: Understanding what is happening to your injured body is important to allow you to be involved in the decisions that affect your health.

• Questions you should ask include How serious is the injury? What will I need to do to return to my sport? How long will my recovery take? What exercises can I do to help? What about pain, how much should I expect? How is my progress going to be measured? What mental strategies can I use to help my recovery? Is it normal for the progress to be up and down/faster at the start, slower towards the end? When is it safe and smart for me to return to activity?
• Accept that you have ultimate responsibility for the rehabilitation, and there is much you can do to increase your chances of a good recovery.
YOU CAN DO IT! Positive beliefs and expectations and an optimistic attitude will help you recuperate.
• Your doctor, Primary Health Care Provider, Physical Therapist and Athletic Trainer will work with you to provide a program that helps to:
1. Decrease the pain and discomfort of the injury.
2. Gradually increase the intensity, so you succeed at each step on the rehabilitation pathway.
3. Set realistic goals with you to measure your progress.
4. Provide you with encouragement and support for your efforts.
5. Explain possible setbacks and help you mange them when they occur.

MENTAL TRAINING: Use mental strategies to cope with the discomfort and challenges of the injury.
• Try relaxation strategies; imagery; thought stopping to control unhelpful negative thoughts; distraction techniques like listening to music, reading, painting or participating in a safe form of alternative exercise.
• This is a great time to work on your performance imagery to keep your sport specific skills sharp as you rehabilitate. Seek professional guidance if you need to improve your mental skills.

These factors will help you stay motivated and to stick with your rehabilitation program:

• Surround yourself with supportive, positive people who will encourage your progress and allow you to make your own informed decisions.
• Avoid people who pity you or are overprotective; this kind of support will hinder your recovery.
• Talk to people who have successfully come back from injuries, they remind you it can be done.
• Get involved in something outside of tennis - enroll in a course; increase your charity work, or take up a hobby.
• Participating in these kinds of activities helps you remain positive and motivated during your rehabilitation.

• Be involved in setting difficult, but achievable realistic short- and long-term goals for your recovery.
• Goals help direct you towards a healthy return to the court and allow you a method to measure your progress.
• No one wants an injury. Next time one happens to you, view it as a challenge: an opportunity to accept responsibility, commit to rehabilitation and apply these tips. You can reap the rewards and be back faster and stronger.

The contents of the Health site are for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, psychiatric, psychological, health care or health management advice. The materials herein are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this site. Reliance on any information provided herein is solely at your own risk.

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