How To Handle The Toughest Hurdle


While all athletes experience the annoying pain of an injured ankle, or the feeling of intense pain for about two minutes when one bumps a knee with another, “walking it off” seems to be the best option at that time. Tighten your shoes! Wear a knee-guard! You try to fix these injuries by yourself, or with a little help from the local self-proclaimed ‘doctor.’

What happens when that doesn’t work? What happens when playing through the pain is not an option? What’ll happen when you must visit the doctor and get a battery of medical tests done because you cannot handle the pain in your bed at night?

What happens when you have to go under the knife to reconstruct a torn ligament or have a broken bone surgically repaired and have to learn how to walk, run and jump all over again?

The Hurdle

The toughest hurdle to cross when recovering from an injury is the mind. For an athlete, being on the court or the field daily is a therapeutic process. When that is taken away from you, because of an injury, you begin to doubt your ability to do what you do best. Rehabilitation from an injury is slow and can be incredibly frustrating.

Most athletes, if not all, will tell you that “being injured sucks.” Instead of fighting for a loose ball on a basketball court, you are focusing on getting the full range of motion of your leg back.

Instead of waiting for the snap to catch the ball and fling to your wide receiver, you are getting an ultrasound massage on your shoulder.  Not being able to be out there and go to war with your team seems to be the single most exasperating thing for an athlete who is getting back from an injury.

As you go through a grueling rehab process, doubts start to creep in. Will you be able to explode off the injured leg? Can you jump as high as you used to, or run as fast? Will you be able to play the sport you love, at the highest level of your ability?

NBA Examples

Many elite athletes have been through the most challenging injuries and come out on top. Paul George, (NBA forward, then with the Indiana Pacers) in a tune-up game for the FIBA world championships in 2014, suffered a freak leg injury.  {WARNING: These videos have graphic content. Viewer discretion is advised} ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injuries are the most common sports injuries.

The number of athletes who have been through this injury and have come back stronger is innumerable. Shaun Livingston, who was picked 4th overall in the NBA draft by the Los Angeles Clippers.

He was considered to be one of the best developing young point guards that the league had seen in a long time. With freakishly long arms. He was 6’7, which was tall for a point guard. He had a debilitating knee injury in 2007, in which he tore almost every part of his knee. He didn’t call it quits though – instead, he worked his tail off to get back to the court. He’s now a two-time NBA champion with the Golden State Warriors and chasing the third ring.

Doubters and Training Your Mind

When you are in rehab from a sports injury, the number of doubters who will pull you down will be unbelievable. There will be plenty of people in your life who tell you that you cannot make it. That this injury is too significant to get back from.

The mind, your toughest hurdle comes into play again. Will you be able to use all the negativity coming from all around you as motivation? Will you listen to all the naysayers and believe them?

Or will you train your mind to listen to that one person (probably your mother or father) who says “Yes! You can do it!” Better yet, will you believe that you have the strength and the tenacity it takes to get back?

Through all the questions, and through all the negative reactions from people, you must learn to train your mind. This is cliché but training your mind to trust the process is the best you can do for yourself when you are injured.

Focus On The Positive

Focus on when you will be able to dunk again or produce a Federer-esque winning backhand. When you think about that exhilarating feeling, every part of rehab will feel doable. Even the toughest exercise has to come to an end.

You will be on the sideline, cheering and whooping your team on. But, what can be learned from time away from the court or the field, is how to be a student of the game. When you take a backseat and observe your teammates as they play. You will be able to help them out in their games. By telling to adjust their footwork in a post move or to tighten the angle of a smash of the volleyball. More importantly, you will be able to watch your opponents from afar. Understand tendencies and the strengths and weaknesses of your opponents.

Trust The Process!

Finally, you are back on the court! You can join your team again at the line of scrimmage. This is when your mind will tell you not to make a certain move. Not to spin off your left leg or not to dive for that long pass thrown by your quarterback. This is when you need to throw caution to the wind and trust the process.

Trust in the fact that you have put in the work, and don’t let fear hinder your movements and actions in the game. Remember, you have waited a long time for this, and been in physiotherapy and the weight room, just to be able to play the game that you love.

Warning: Cliché quote is coming up. This one is my favorite. “Pressure busts pipes, but also make diamonds.”

Will you be the player who will succumb to the pressure of coming back from a significant injury? Or will you trust the process and let pressure make you a better player than you were before?

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