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4 Tips For Coping With A Career Ending Injury

The moment your opportunity to play the sport you love is suddenly ripped from you can be very traumatic. One wrong step, wrong twist, or reaching too far, and there it all goes. You know as soon as it happens that it is all over, but you are still forced to go through the torment of listening to your coaches, trainers, and doctors break the news and attempt to comfort you through the process of saying good bye to your athletic career.

In reality, the only thing you want to hear is that the injury isn’t that bad and that you will be back out on the field, court, or track in a couple of days. It’s like living in your worst nightmare and not being able to wake up. You feel that the sport that made you who you are today is no longer there for you. You feel that the way you express yourself has suddenly disappeared, and inevitably you feel that you have been robbed of your identity.

The process of coping with your injury is not easy, but I have made a list that can help you work past your athletic career. I have personally dealt with not being able to compete due to an injury and these tips truly helped me redefine myself outside of being an athlete.


1. Find ways to stay involved with your team

  • Go to practices
  • Take stats for the team
  • Become an announcer
  • Ask your coach if you can act as a junior assistant coach
  • Attend team bonding events

It's very important to stay connected with your teammates because they understand the pain you are dealing with and will help you cope with your pain. This will also keep you in an athletic environment. Though you can’t actually play, you can find comfort in being surrounded by your teammates who are working hard to accomplish goals that you have shared with them. The court, the track, or the field is your home away from home and even after your injury will continue to be a safe place to come. While still being affiliated with your team and the sport you may also learn something new about the sport you love now that you are looking at the game from a different perspective.


2. Get involved in other activities

Another thing athletes struggle with after they are no longer able to compete is the amount of free time they now have. They don’t have to be at all the mandatory workout sessions and team meetings. The new free time can make you feel unsatisfied and disconnected from the school. Find ways to fill this time by getting involved in other extra circulars. There are so many activities, clubs, and organizations going on at a college campus like SAAC, SAPB, SGA, Sororities, Fraternities, and so much more. These clubs and organizations will take up your time and allow you to focus on something other than your injury. They will allow you to get involved and meet new people.


3. Find out who you are without sports

It’s funny how many athletes feel that their sport has made them who they are. In many cases, athletes who are suddenly unable to compete feel they are no longer who they use to be. While it is easy to feel this way because you probably spent countless hours throughout your life dedicated to your sport, it's vital to remember you are still the same person with or without playing sports. Though things will change, the person you are is still there. Find out what other hobbies interest you. Perhaps something you were always interested in, but never had the time to get involved in. For example, when I was unable to compete due to a shoulder injury, I took up painting. It has become my stress reliver that fills the void that competing once did for me. Other hobbies to consider are yoga, boating, reading, bingo, photography, and so much more.

It's vital to remember you are still the same person with or without playing sports


4. Understand it's okay to not be okay

The mental stress and suffering a person goes through while transitioning from a current athlete to a former athlete can be overwhelming. All athletes cope in their own ways. Though I provided a couple tips that helped me when I was suddenly unable to compete, these tips won’t be enough for everyone. If you feel that you can not cope with this on your own, know that it’s okay. There are trained professionals that can help you work through the steps of grieving your injury. I personally understand how difficult it can be to make this transition or be stuck in limbo as you are waiting on final results from your doctor. The grief you feel can be overwhelming and sometimes you just need the extra help. Reach out to your coaches, trainers, and doctors and let them lead you in the right direction to someone that can help you overcome this.