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Chatham Soccer League

Dealing With Injury

Dealing with Injury

Every athlete, regardless of his or her skill level, will go through a grieving process after incurring an injury - without exception. In 1969, Kubler-Ross first outlined the stages of grief a person goes through when facing a serious or career ending injury, death or serious disease prognosis.

An understanding of the four stages of managing grief: denial, anger, depression and acceptance will help you in supporting the athlete through them.

At the beginning, the athlete cannot believe the injury is severe or that it will impact their ability to continue with their sport. They may still believe in the myth that “no pain means no gain”. If so, they have been living under a rock for quite some time. Pain is an indicator that something has gone wrong and needs immediate attention. The realization that the pain is stopping them from participating leads to the next stage.

Denial quickly turns to anger as the reality of the situation settles in and the athlete is forced by the circumstances to alter or even stop their participation in their sport. Recovery is often not an easy path and the athlete becomes frustrated and more irritated with the pace of the rehabilitation process. At this point, the coach is in an ideal position to be a sounding board for the athlete’s exasperation, and help ease their aggressiveness toward the athletic trainers who are trying to get them back in shape. Realizing the athlete is angry at their loss of ability to perform, their loss of power over what has happened to them and the current situation they now find themselves in are important points to keep in mind while dealing with the individual.

Self worth becomes an issue at this point in the process and depression sets in due to the reality of the situation now being fully realized. The athlete begins to feel as though he or she has no physical or emotional control. The team continues onward without them, which leaves a void in their life and this leads to feelings of isolation, further self-doubt and lowering of their self-esteem. Hope for a successful outcome becomes cloudy and they may not see any good coming from the rehabilitation process.

You as the coach will have the most difficult time during this stage as the athlete may stop going to rehab, to team practices or even talking to you. You must continue talking to them by providing encouragement. Explain to them the progress they have made and keep them engaged in their recovery. Once they have completed the journey through this stage, they enter the final one, acceptance and recovery begins in earnest.

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