Young athletes are enthusiastic and passionate about sports, but coping with an injury or upcoming surgery can be challenging for even the most resilient athlete. It’s even more difficult when activity restrictions keep an athlete out of an important game or competition. We know that some patients may be more likely to have problems coping with their injury than others.
Athletes are more at risk of having problems coping with injury or surgery, when they:
are at a pivotal point in their sports career or season.
must spend an extended time out of sports.
are already experiencing a particular stress, for instance, divorcing parents or academic struggles.
have difficulty coping with stress.
are advised to change sports completely.
Athletes are more likely to cope well when they:
have good social support with a well-balanced social life, which includes activities and friends outside of sports.
have coaches and caregivers who are supportive and encouraging.
stay connected with their team throughout recovery.
have non-sport activities or hobbies to focus on while out of sport .
Parents have an ongoing opportunity to help their children cope with all kinds of stressful situations. Here are a few specific suggestions:
Be a Role Model for Healthy Coping Skills
Rather than waiting until an injury occurs, parents can be proactive by demonstrating healthy coping skills on a consistent basis. For example, encourage open communication. Acknowledge disappointment and discuss frustration in a calm manner. When parents handle stressful situations positively, their children can learn to do the same.
Make Time for Fun
Keeping a well-balanced schedule with time for school, sports and fun will help a young athlete prepare for added stresses that come with injuries. Athletes with schedules that are over-committed to sports have a hard time finding other fun activities while they recover from an injury. Those who have a balance prior to the injury find it easier to shift their focus away from sports without strong negative feelings.
Practice Healthy Behaviors
Help your children learn how to eat healthy, stay hydrated and prioritize a good sleep schedule. Bedtime routines should be a time to limit technology and promote relaxation to help facilitate sleep. These healthy behaviors are the foundation for coping with stress and building resilience.
Take a Positive Approach
Help your children challenge worries and stressors by using positive-self talk. When you hear a negative comment, help your child find a realistic, yet positive replacement thought. Supportive comments about effort and progress help children build confidence and resilience.
Coping with injuries can be very difficult, but with the right support and encouragement, children can learn how to manage their injury in a healthy, positive way.
Read More Articles by Dr. Force regarding youth athletes:
Erica Force, PhD, CC-AASP, has practiced as a licensed psychologist with a focus in sport psychology since 2012. She is a registered Sport Psychologist for the United States Olympic Committee Sport Psychology Registry. Upon completion of her pediatric post-doctoral fellowship at TSRHC in 2015, she joined the Psychology team. Utilizing her credentialing as a Certified Sport Psychology Consultant, she sees patients on our North Campus in Plano. Dr. Force has co-authored publications in prominent journals focused on the psychology of sport.