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How Can Athletes Maintain Their Mental Wellness with Injuries?

As sports fans, we wake up and throw on our team jerseys in pride. We make our game day wings and queso to sit in front of the jumbo screen TV waiting for the first score. We yell and cheer while watching our team dominate. Then out of nowhere, our favorite player falls to the ground in pain. Completely out of our control, destroying our fantasy team points and ruining our playoff chances. These unfortunate situations cause fans to get so caught up in the return date for the players that they overlook how this effects athletes emotionally. Game changing players such as Aaron Rodgers, Gordon Hayward and Jeremy Lin have recently suffered injuries that could keep them out for their seasons. The media has been filled with questions that ask “how will the Packers’ offense survive without their quarterback” or “will star forward, Hayward return at any point this season?” These questions do a disservice to the athletes by neglecting their mental wellbeing during times of injury.

Are you an injured athlete who has been experiencing exhaustion and frustration? You may be so worried about your physical state or returning to the game that you forget to take care of yourself mentally. As we have stated in previous blogs, we know that athletes are susceptible to a whole host of mental health struggles – including anxiety and depression. Injuries bring negative emotions to the forefront. Anxiety makes it harder to physically heal, while depression brings sadness from the pain of the injury and missed opportunities. How you cope with your injury influences your mental state. Athletes must find healthy ways to cope during their recovery for them to be successful post injury (Sheinbein, 2016).

TOPPS believes in building a balanced mind, balanced body. To assist those with injuries we have created a list of TOPPSTips to help build/maintain mental wellness.

Here are ways to improve your coping skills when recovering from injury:

  • Build your mental toughness! Practicing psychological skills during the injury recovery process can help you cope and heal as an athlete! Using behavioral and counseling treatments will treat your mental health while undergoing physical rehabilitation (Myers, Peyton, & Jensen, 2004). This involves goal setting, relaxation, mental imagery and positive self-talk strategies (Potter & Grove, 1999).

  • Utilize social support systems! Hanging out with teammates, staying social, even calling your parents when things get hard are all ways to help you cope during your recovery. This is when those family-like relationships with coaches and teammates are most important. Identify your support system and vent, vent, vent (Yang et al., 2014)!

  • Keep a mindful and positive mindset! Injuries can cause you to throw in the towel. Without positivity and hopefulness, the injury can be harder to heal. Not to mention creating another injury - a mental injury. Just remember, this is a minor setback! Keep a positive mindset and know that it will get better (Lu & Hsu, 2013).

The above strategies can help athletes recover from injuries, but we know it can be an isolated and lonely process. We understand that this is difficult, and that healing is different for each person. Stay invested in your sport by going to practice, participating in restricted workouts and communicating with your team to help ease the process. Our #TOPPSTips are a starting point to assist you along your recovery process, but it is important to also find a strategy that works best for you. Seek help from your athletic trainer, team doctor, coaching staff, etc. to further explore these strategies. If you are a local athlete seeking mental health treatment, visit our website to schedule an appointment with one of our providers. Stay healthy on and off the field by building your mental mindset!


Lu, F. J. H., & Hsu, Y. (2013). Injured Athletes’ Rehabilitation Beliefs and Subjective Well Being: The Contribution of Hope and Social Support. Journal of Athletic Training, 48(1), 92-98.

Myers, C. A., Peyton, D. D., & Jensen, B. J. (2004). Treatment acceptability in NCAA division 1 football athletes: Rehabilitation intervention strategies. Journal of Sport Behavior, 27(2), 165-169.

Potter, M., & Grove, J. (1999). Mental skills training during rehabilitation: Case studies of injured athletes. New Zealand Journal of Physiotherapy, 27(2), 24-31.

Sheinbein, S. (2016). Psychological effect of injury on the athlete: A recommendation for psychological intervention. AMAA Journal, 29(3), 8-10.

Yang, J., Schaefer, J. T., Zhang, N., Covassin, T., Ding, K., & Heiden, E. (2014). Social support from the athletic trainer and symptoms of depression and anxiety at return to play. Journal of Athletic Training, 49(6), 773-779.

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