Maintaining ties with teammates will help injured elite athletes recover more quickly, says U of T professor Lynda Mainwaring.
Elite athletes who suffer from severe injuries feel isolated from team members, says Mainwaring of the Faculty of Physical Education and Health. "There is a whole barrage of emotions that goes along with an injury and the aftermath of the injury that affects not only the physical health but the social and psychological health of an athlete."
One of the most difficult aspects of being injured, apart from the injury itself, is being removed from the team and its social support system, at a time when the athletes need it the most. Elite athletes train, travel, eat, play and socialize together but, once injured, they no longer have an active role with the team.
Coaches and other team members should make a point of including the injured athlete in team activities, Mainwaring says. "Call them up to see how they are doing and have the coach suggest they come to the game to take statistics - involve them to facilitate their healthy return to sport both physically and psychologically."
Mainwaring followed 10 elite amateur athletes with severe knee injuries for one year through their recovery process. She found the athletes were surprised by their emotional reaction to their injury, frustrated by the perceived lack of information they were receiving, discouraged by the initial slow gains in therapy and were worried about losing their physical prowess. She also found that, after initial pain and depression, athletes are very motivated to return to an active lifestyle. The study was published in the spring issue of the Canadian Journal of Rehabilitation.