Saturday, April 2, 2011

Sports Injury & Depression

My name is Gabrielle, and I am depressed. 

The rest of the my running group is tackling the big hill in Devou park this morning, and I feel like I'm missing the party.  Right now, my body cannot do what I want it to do...and it is so frustrating.

 Athletes often find that their sadness after being sidelined far outweighs the physical pain. With mental toughness being such a dominant aspect of sports, the fact that an athlete may experience symptoms of depression after an athletic injury is largely overlooked in the medical community.  According to the New York Times, one study of 343 male college athletes from a variety of sports found that 51 percent had some symptoms of depression after being injured.  Despite this, only about 2 percent of sports medicine centers have psychologists available to help patients.

While Olympians and professional athletes are most apt to suffer from post-injury depression since it affects their livelihood, average athletes can be affected just as severely.  With an injury, athletes can feel depressed because their sport defines so much of who they are, and without it, they feel lost.  Furthermore, athletes are used to putting faith and trust into their bodies in order to perform the way they want them to, and injury makes them feel like their bodies have failed them.  The sense of euphoria and accomplishment they once experienced from their sport may be replaced by physical pain, boredom, and weakness. For someone who thrives on physical activity, not being able to workout can lead to weight gain, insomnia and irritability.

While depression after an injury is still going to happen, there are several ways to combat the symptoms: 

1. Learn about your injury - Researching your injury online before your doctor's appointment will help you come prepared with appropriate questions for your physician.  The more you know about the severity of your injury, the more reasonable and logical you can be about projecting your own recovery. 

2. Accept your injury - Some sports psychologists have compared sports injuries with the five stages of accepting the death of a loved one, and the most important part of that process is coming to acceptance.  Once you accept that the injury has happened, you can move on with figuring out how to recover.

3. Be positive - Having a positive attitude about being injured can greatly alter how quickly you recover.  It will make you more likely to complete your rehab, and will help you fight through the pain to get back to doing what you love.

While my broken rib is healing, I am still experiencing a substantial amount of pain.  Luckily, my doctor told me yesterday that, unlike a knee injury, exercise can't make my injury worse.  So I have a free pass to test the waters....and test I will because I feel like I am crawling out of my skin right now.  I did two treadmill walks this week, and plan to do some time on the dreaded elliptical today.  It feels great to be doing something again, but any sort of running or Zumba (i.e., the things I love) are still wait-and-see. I don't know if it is a reasonable goal to believe that I will be able to run the marathon on May 1, but I am holding on to hope, and being positive.

1 comment:

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