Author: Branden Chen
Editors: Kira Tian and Liane Xu
Artist: Aurora Chen
When we go see football and basketball games, we often marvel at their athletic skill. But we seem to never care about athletes that are injured midway and have to sit out for a game, a season, or the rest of their career. Read on to find more about the effects of sports injuries on athletes’ mental health.
Many people participate in at least one sport; they usually do it for health and mental benefits. However, athletics is not just a way to get in shape and exercise. Athletes withstand many obstacles throughout their athletic career, regardless of whether the career consists of four seasons in high school or a full D-1 experience in the NCAA. We should understand the extent of the effects of athletics and accommodate these detrimental experiences for student-athletes and future star sports players.
Physical activities are essential to our everyday lives. The human body needs physical activities to stay healthy and maintain wellbeing. Physical activities not only enhance physical health, but they also provide many secondary effects. For example, participating in physical activities at a younger age can be beneficial to psychosocial and personal development and decrease the chances of developing an addiction to alcohol.
However, sports are not always sunshine and rainbows. Injuries are inevitable in sports, no matter the level of intensity. These injuries can be caused by a broad range of activities, for example, landing wrong on a jump or exerting too much force into a swing. While minor injuries can be treated rather quickly, leaving relatively no impact on the athlete and the sport, the truth is that major injuries are a physical and mental blockade. Severe injuries can trigger serious mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and substance abuse. Other emotional responses include isolation, irritation, lack of motivation, anger, and sleep disturbance. But athletes rarely pay attention to coping with these mental changes because they are far too preoccupied with their injuries.
To understand the mindset of student-athletes, put yourself into the shoes of one of them. Imagine this: you are currently a sophomore in college and play D-1 volleyball. Although you are young, your skills demonstrate great potential in playing for the USA team internationally. However, you suffer a major leg injury in the off-season that requires months of rehabilitation and may even end your sports career. From a mental standpoint, that can be highly agonizing and frustrating. A world in which you had your entire life planned ahead of you comes crashing down within a matter of minutes. Understandably, you would feel like a failure or feel immensely frustrated, but you are not alone with this experience. Many student-athletes share the same story, making it even more important to understand the measures that can be taken.
Sports psychologists and physicians understand that an injury can be traumatic to an athlete and realize that emotional responses are entirely normal. Medical professionals must understand this as well because inappropriate reactions can only worsen an athlete’s mental state. As research continues to expand our knowledge of the mental strains of injury on student-athletes, more resources will become available to help student-athletes in their quest to regain passion in their sport.
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