No athlete ever wants to be injured. But hey, it happens! Once you get past the initial pain and frustration, you'll notice there are huge opportunities that any injury provides. If approached with a positive mindset - one that searches for “the silver lining” - the athlete can exit the recovery process healthier, stronger, fitter, and faster than ever.
Let’s take a look at the top 5 massive reasons injury is an opportunity:
- Get Bullet-Proof! Well, not literally. But improving an athlete’s injury risk profile is a nice benefit to the time off from regular training. For example, let’s say the injury is a lower-back strain. But in this same athlete, there is also a history of weakness in the hips. That means that the injury is a great time to get Bullet-Proof by addressing the weakness alongside the injury. Hint: most injuries are, eventually, traced back to these weak links.
- Physical capacities. This is a chance to reset and spend time working on some base level physical capacities like aerobic fitness, total body strength, and overall improvement in physical preparedness.
- Movement efficiency. Most athletes could use fine-tuning, if not complete overhaul, on things like jumping mechanics, change of direction efficiency, bat swing, shot mechanics, etc. An injury is a great time to rebuild mechanically in areas of need. There is no pressure to perform these skills live, so the ability to practice technique over and over can be extremely productive and refreshing.
- Psychological and emotional resiliency. I’ve found that when things are NOT going my way that seems to be the best time to see what my current ability is to handle stress. In this case, the injury again affords the athlete time to work on themselves psychologically. This can be with the direct help of a sports psychologist or mental coach or through the learned discipline that comes from showing up to rehab and reconditioning every day only to be challenged and frustrated during the grueling process that IS coming back from injury.
- Tactical awareness. Take out your play book, fire up YouTube, keep ESPN on, watch practices, etc. Get better at the tactical driven aspects to your sport.
For the hurt athlete, injury should never be viewed as a time to relax and check out. Even if you are a recreational athlete at the middle or high school levels, any injury is serious business that can affect your health for many years to come (or even a lifetime).
Instead of taking a mental and physical vacation, I recommend viewing injury as a brief timeout from regular training and competition and use it to stay focused and double-down on your efforts to improve every aspect of your performance. Then watch as it translates into a fantastic “next season” and shows up positively in other areas of life, too.
Thank you to the book High-Performance Training for Sports for the inspiration and guidance on writing this post.