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This rehabilitation is crucial to strengthen the areas surrounding the graft so that it does not fail. Athletes may accept that injuries are part of their lives and may know how to deal with physical rehabilitation, but few are prepared for the emotional pain, fear and anger that also result from injury. Athletes are used to being part of a team. When they are injured they are suddenly on their own. Their teammates will continue on but they now have a new job, physical and emotional rehabilitation of their bodies and much of the work will have to be accomplished on their own.

Here is a quick look at the emotional process that happens when someone is injured as similar to the five stages of grief. The first stage is denial. Athletes by their very nature believe that they are superior physically and therefore do not accept the fact they can be injured. When an athlete realizes an injury is real his reaction may be to isolate and blame himself. Denial is followed by anger, particularly at himself for allowing the injury to occur. During the third stage the athlete tries to make bargains with coaches, trainers or God, such as if I spend 2 hours walking every day I can play again in 2 months.


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Very often these bargains are unreasonable dreams. The competitive athlete will now move to a period of depression, feeling sorry for themselves, withdrawing or simply giving up. This stage particularly can put an athlete’s rehab off track. To be successful an athlete must finally get to the acceptance stage when he realizes that the only way to handle the injury is to focus on his physical rehab which could result in returning to competition.

The factors that contribute the most to helping an athlete reach psychological acceptance and recovery are education, social support, psychological skill training and goal setting; traits that many athletes use in their pre-injury training.

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Understanding an injury and their reaction to it helps athletes cope with the problems that naturally arrive along with the injury. Support and understanding of team mates, family and friends can also be a critical factor in recovery. Knowing and understanding how others have coped gives athletes mechanisms for starting to construct their own recoveries.

While having social support that listens and appreciates the seriousness of an injury is necessary, too much sympathy from family or friends can impair the athlete’s acceptance level which can slow or derail the recovery process. A study done by the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece concludes that “psychological intervention techniques can aid significantly to the rehabilitation process. In particular, the goal setting process seems to have positive clout in the athletic injury recovery, in the attitude of the injured athlete, in the successful confrontation of the injury, in the recovery of confidence and in the adherence to the rehabilitation program”.


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