Athletes are pretty boring. Yeah, the thrill of the sport is one of the biggest highs you may ever experience. Competing in front of thousands of people; all cheering for you to go out and win. It’s wild, fun, exhilarating, emotional, you get the point. You and your teammates out working as one to beat the opponent. The smells, sounds, sights, it’s amazing. I’m starting to smile just thinking about it.
But wait, I started this by saying athletes are boring right? None of that sounds boring! Well it’s not, but off the field, your life revolves around the sport. Waking up at the crack of dawn to workout, training all day, studying film, working out again in the evening, everything revolves around the sport. It doesn’t leave much time for other activities. Many, if not all of your friends, do the same thing as you and are on the same teams.
This is why injuries can be so damaging to an athlete. Injuries can hurt not only physically, but also psychologically. You can’t work out, you can’t train, and you can’t compete. You’re left asking, “What do I do with my time now?”
Among high school and college athletes, concussion, a form of traumatic brain injury, is getting more and more attention. One recent study showed that 40% of college athletes suffered from some level of depression after a sports-related injury. This shows just how important the sport and the team are to an athlete. Let me put that number into context. 25% of cancer patients, 40% of heart attack patients, 40% of Parkinson’s patients and 27% of people who suffer from substance abuse also suffered from depression as a result. Though the study population was small, the results are staggering and show this is something that needs research and more attention from all involved: parents, counselors, coaches and health care providers.
So, what do we do? How can we help the situation? That’s a hard question to answer and probably involves answers athletes don’t want to hear. There are a few easy ways to mitigate the damage suffered from a serious sports-related injury. Get involved with other activities, join another club that is not sports related, make some friends who don’t play sports, or pick up some non-sports related hobbies. Having diverse interests will help you in case you do get injured, because, if that does happen, you won’t feel like you have lost everything. You can still be around friends who aren’t reminding you of what you are missing.
The biggest thing you can do for your health and safety is know when to ask for help. Understand that injuries can cause more than just physical harm. Be aware of your emotions and if you feel you need help, don’t be afraid to ask.
If you know an athlete who was injured, keep an eye on him or her. Be there for him while he is recovering. Make her feel like she is still part of the team, or just spend time with her and talk about things other than the sport.