Updated: Sep 2
Throughout my entire athletic career I've been known as the one who was always injured. I’ve had everything from pulled muscles and broken toes to fractures and everything in between. I’ve had countless hours of physical therapy, procedures, and rehab. Although track and field has been the cause of many of my injuries, it is the fuel for my passion. A pattern throughout my athletic career has resembled a rollercoaster more than anything else. I train, I get healthy. I finally reach higher levels of performance and as soon as I’m able to show a glimpse of success and potential, an injury comes out of nowhere and I’m back to an all time low yet again.
Throughout these injuries, I’ve learned how hard it is to not only physically be ok, but mentally sounds as well. When your body can’t fully function, your mind begins to follow. These are the hidden side effects they don’t really talk about in the world of athletes. I found that it's hard to find resources for the athletes that are “persistently injured” like me. I think back to the first time I had a serious injury that took me away from my sport for a long period of time. The only thing on my mind was “How fast can I get back to my sport?” This is a very difficult thing to go through once, let alone multiple times. Not only did I suffer from injuries but the “invisible injuries” my friend liked to call them as well. The injuries no one can see that don’t require crutches or a boot. They don’t tell you about the mental game you have to play with yourself after you leave the doctors office. I saw my mental health deteriorate more and more with each injury. Every time I’ve been injured, life becomes the injury. You have to retrain your body and brain. Soon enough all you can think about is the limitations you must bear. I didn’t even notice that one day I woke up and didn’t know who I was anymore. I was this very bubbly, outgoing, confident person one day and the next I was very insecure and quiet. I became too familiar with the embarrassing and frustrating sentence, “Yes. I am injured...again” and I became insecure not only because of feeling like I had to explain my repeated injuries to teammates, friends and family, but because while learning how not to move my body in order to avoid injury or reinjury, I no longer moved confidently. I watched as the fundamentals of my body, such as posture, deteriorated. I forgot what it was like to function without limitations. I felt trapped in a body that was constantly betraying me. I still do. But every time I think “I can’t do this again, I can't go through another injury”, I eventually fall victim to another injury or setback and somehow I am yet again doing it. I am getting through it. I continually surprise myself with how much I am willing to put up with.
I’ve realized in order to be an athlete or to become a great athlete, you must be willing to do such mundane things over and over and keep your sanity in spite of the insane repetitive nature of sports and injuries. I believe every athlete needs to learn who they can trust with not only their training and their body but with their thoughts and mental state. Building a support system of family or friends or anyone like teachers or even your best friends mom can be the first step for anyone who has struggled with the mental aspect in sports. I found that journaling and talking about how I was feeling either made me feel better or helped me get a good and neccesary cry out. It is necessary to have these “weak” moments in order to heal and stay sane. I read books and found online resources that helped me gain some mental toughness and helped me develop some healthy internal talk. I wish more people advertised how difficult it is mentally to deal with injuries and the stress of being an athlete.