Your First Injury!

An estimated 3 to 5 million adults and youth are injured each year in sports and exercise which means even you will get injured sometime to one degree or another.
An estimated 3 to 5 million adults and youth are injured each year in sports and exercise which means even you will get injured sometime to one degree or another. Maybe you already have. If so, you'll find this information will describe the process you went through. Whether it's a minor muscle or connective tissue strain or something more serious like a bone fracture, there are a number of things the body goes through, both mentally and physically. Physically, you feel or hear the injury occur, however this is where the mental aspect often comes into play. Psychologically, the athlete or weight trainer may suffer from stress/anxiety, anger, depression, concentration/attention problems and exercise addiction. In health and athletics, there's a predictable set of psychological reactions that everyone goes through when injured. It is the Grief Response. The five stages are often referred to as D.A.B.D.A. (pronounced Dab-Duh). These stand for:

  • Denial - You initially deny the fact that you're injured, or something has happened. You can't believe that something like this has happened to you so you deny the fact that you just blew a hamstring or strained a neck muscle. Once proper diagnosis has done by a medical professional, you move to the next step.

  • Anger - You are now mad and you just want to punch the wall (not recommended). Maybe you've been seeing such good results that this will set you back too long. Other situations include athletes getting injured during pre-season practice, taking away their ability to compete in the first few games/matches of their season. All of a sudden, all of the strength and conditioning they did in the off-season was all "a waste". This is when the next step is recognized.

  • Bargaining - This can be seen in many different situations. A great example is when a young couple has had unprotected sex and the female's period is now 3 weeks late. They both start praying and bargaining with God "We'll never do it again, just pleeeeeease don't let her be pregnant." This is similar in fitness enthusiasts and athletes. They'll do anything to not be injured anymore. They take any pill or medication, do any stretch or exercise, just make this injury go away. And if it will help, they'll take twice the meds-just to get better. And when as they're recovering, they'll promise to never do squats without warming up properly again... or whatever the case may be. However, if the injury is not recovering quickly or they have to have some type of surgery, this set back often leads to the next (and often final stage for some)...

  • Depression - Fairly self explanatory, the person is so sad that this has happened that they think "That's it... I'm done". Quitting is very easy at this point because they've never been in this situation before. Their life may have been the sport they were playing when injured, and now without that sport, they don't know what to do and how to live. As I said, many people take months or even years to get past this stage. After a spinal injury, many people cannot live independently and a once independent adult must now depend on friends and family to perform daily tasks. Anti-depressants and suicide can seem like viable options when in these situations. An athlete can no longer practice or travel with the team and has to go to the training room all the time for therapy and difficult rehab. They may be away from home for the first time as a college freshman, and have very little support in this time of need. With the proper therapy, rehab and psychological support the person will advance to the final stage...

  • Acceptance - The athlete or exerciser has now accepted their injury and the steps they must go through for recovery. They comply with the medical professionals' recommendations for rehabilitation and will now have a timely recovery-with hopes of only minor setbacks. When injured, people must change some of their daily lifestyle due to inabilities. This change of lifestyle and daily routine can lead to other reactions such as identity loss since the person can no longer hang out with their usual friends, fear and anxiety about whether they'll recover and return to their past routine. Confidence in themselves and their body is also affected greatly when injured.

My buddies and I after an injury-free workout.

The more important thing one can do when injured is to think clearly and seek the best, most professional help as soon as possible. After a proper diagnosis, begin to recover immediately by using all means available to you including rehab exercise, massage, relaxation techniques, just to name a few. If you know someone who is or has been injured and they are currently dealing with it, do all you can for them but don't do everything for them. Allow them to do as much as possible so that they can feel empowered with their progress and ability and be ready for mood swings like you've never seen before. With this knowledge you will recognize the steps you will go through the next time you get injured!

Train hard!