Soccer Players: Dealing with an Injury – Part One
A global sport psychologist and author specializing in soccer, Dan Abrahams is based in England and has helped hundreds of professional soccer players – many of them who play in the English Premier League (EPL).
Recently helping a Crystal Palace player succeed on the field, Abrahams has held contracts with QPR, Fulham, and West Ham United among other clubs and works quietly, behind the scenes with many coaches from top clubs across the Atlantic. Abrahams is a columnist for SoccerToday and wants to share his expertise on player development with our readers — Here is important info on how to mentally manage the hardship of being injured.
DAN ABRAHAMS ON WHAT SOCCER PLAYERS NEED TO KNOW
Last week I was watching an International match between Wales and the Republic of Ireland. Full of tension the match wasn’t much of a spectacle with both sets of players nervous about making a mistake, nervous about being the culprit in a tight affair.
Midway through the second half a violent challenge from Welsh player Neil Taylor on Ireland right back Seamus Coleman left the Irishman writhing around on the ground in agony. And it left a broken leg.
Coleman now faces a year on the sidelines, a year to contemplate not playing the game he loves, and a year of pain staking rehabilitation.
As a soccer player, you may never break a bone, but the reality of the game as an amateur or professional player is stark when it comes to injury.
You will get injured at some point.
It will happen! You will face a stretch on the sidelines – for some lucky ones that will be a few weeks here and there.
For others, it might involve a lengthy period of months at a time and over the course of a playing career maybe even several season.
There are no magic words to help players cope with a period of injury and an absence from soccer.
There’s no linguistic recipe that makes it all better. But there are tools and techniques players can use that help them better manage what is a tough period for them.
I’m going to split this article into two parts. In this part we’re going to look at ways to mentally manage the hardship of being injured.
Part Two will include techniques that can help players complete with greater confidence when they return from injury.
Soccer Players – To Recover From An Injury, It Is Important To Understand Your Brain
When you get an injury, especially a serious one, the brain will likely want you to replay the tackle or situation that gave you the injury. It wants you to think about it over and over.
What your brain is doing — in a nutshell — is bookmarking the incident.
It’s saying “Avoid this situation again at all costs” and it adds a cocktail of emotion to make it even more memorable.
That’s the way your brain works. So no wonder it’s tough to get rid of that inner picture of what happened. No wonder it feels like it’s inscribed into a visual template that returns to haunt you again and again.
And you know the best way to deal with this challenge?
Accept it. Don’t fight it. You can’t win that fight. Just accept it.
Let the brain have its way. When you do this time will heal. Time will turn down the brightness on the incident and time will lessen the emotion of the situation.
Soccer Players – Accept the Emotion
Alongside an acceptance of your brain’s natural response to injury, I advise players to spend the initial period of rehabilitation accepting the emotion they’re experiencing.
Again, in my opinion, trying to fight these initial feelings of frustration and anger can be unhelpful and can even be detrimental. It can increase the negative feelings you experience.
Accept that you may feel a little frustrated or down during the first stages of injury rehabilitation.
So relax. It’s ok to avoid an internal fight and struggle. It’s ok to just be.
Players with long term injuries are allowed to grieve.
They’re allowed to feel sorry for themselves. They’re allowed to think that it’s pretty rubbish that they’re not going to experience playing the game they love for quite a long time. That’s ok right? Don’t fight that process.
Then, it’s time to start thinking like a champion again.
Eventually, as the grief starts to wear thin — it will become time to get back to the kind of mindset that has made you the player you are.
Soccer Players – Picture the Process
As the days pass, I want you to become a little more proactive. I’d like you to start thinking about playing again. I’d like you to start thinking about your own personal brand of soccer excellence.
What does your very best game look like? What does it feel like? What does your dream game look like? What does it feel like?
I want you to envision your best and rather than let those inner pictures sit softly in the back of your mind, I want you to start forcing them to the forefront of your consciousness.
I want you to do this everyday for at least 15 minutes a day. 15 minutes is about 1% of your day – you can afford this time as part of your mental rehabilitation. It will complement and augment your physical recovery.
Soccer Players – Get the 360
During a time of rehabilitation it’s great to get some feedback on your game. Don’t idle your days away without a ball. Play in your mind and play better than you were before.
To do this, go ask your coach what you need to improve, and set about making changes by mentally rehearsing the improvements your coach wants you to make.
You need to be a better, crisper passer of the ball? So go think about being that kind of player.
You need to react quicker when you lose the ball. Picture it…then picture it some more.
Ask others. Ask your team mates, your friends and your family. Ask the strength and conditioning coach and the sport scientist. Get the 360 degree view of your game. It’s a time when you can be honest with yourself. And then you know what to work on when you start training again.
Soccer Players – Become a Student of the Game
During this period you can also take time to study the game. I have long thought that soccer players could afford to be a little more interested in the tactical side of the game.
Why not read a book on tactics? Or perhaps check out YouTube footage of your favourite players.
When you watch your models your brain computes their actions and their motion. It feeds you a blueprint that you can strive for when you’re fit.
Soccer Players – Be with Teammates
Alongside your study make sure you keep in touch with your team mates.
All too often I see injured players isolate themselves from their mates.
There’s no need for this – it’s not healthy and it won’t aid your recovery. Sometimes a player says to me “But Dan I don’t want to spend time with my team mates. It makes me miss playing soccer with them even more.”
I understand this attitude, but make this an opportunity to get to know your team mates beyond your understanding of them as soccer players.
In this way you might make friends for life. You might be surprised by what you learn about your fellow competitors, and you may find yourself getting closer to those who you felt you had nothing in common with.
Soccer Players – Cortisol is the Killer
Ultimately, when you’re in rehab its vital to manage your cortisol levels.
Cortisol is your stress hormone. There is scientific evidence that suggests that when you release cortisol — when you’re stressed — you will slow down your body’s ability to repair itself.
The techniques and philosophies I’ve talked about in this article are designed, in part, to lessen the release of cortisol. They are designed to help you feel better as you rehab, and to aid your comeback when you finally take that step back out onto the pitch.
Related Articles: Dan Abrahams on SoccerToday
Originally published on March 9th, 2016