Injuries that affect your ability to play can be one of the biggest challenges rugby players face. While players and support staff put a lot of effort and emphasis into preventing injury, they are often an unavoidable part of playing the game.
The physical side of an injury is extremely important but for some players, the impact on their mental wellbeing can be the most difficult to manage.
Physical injuries generally heal well with medical treatment, rest and therapy. It’s often the mental stuff that comes with injury which is the toughest to deal with. Feelings of disappointment, failure, anger, fear, uncertainty, boredom and letting others down are all common amongst players who have an injury.
If you’re already dealing with challenges or stress in your life outside of rugby, an injury can make coping with those things more difficult, so making sure you look after yourself and ask for help when you need it is essential.
Injuries affect each person differently. For some players this can change depending on the type of injury, the recovery time, as well as any stress they have in their lives.
Some of the most common experiences for players dealing with an injury are:
It can be tough spending time on the sideline and it’s normal to feel your motivation levels are impacted too. Revisiting your goals and reminding yourself why you started playing rugby in the first place can help reestablish your focus.
Try spending time thinking about the aspects of the game you enjoy most and set daily and weekly targets rather than looking too far ahead.
It can be challenging to maintain your motivation when you’re injured. Try using a few of the below strategies to help you manage your recovery and look after your mental fitness at the same time.
Just the same as setting goals for fitness or training, setting recovery goals that are realistic and achievable will help you to acknowledge your progress as you recover.
Use the ‘bonus’ time you have to focus on building a stronger you, both physically and mentally. You could focus on nutrition, careers outside of rugby, learning a new skill or studying the team plays.
Staying involved with your team and teammates can be a big help with how you feel during your recovery. This could mean attending trainings and meetings and helping out.
Being around the team can be great but it can be just as important to have some time away doing things you enjoy. Spend some time thinking about the right balance for you and your recovery. Taking a mental break from rehab is really important.
This could be teammates, family, workmates or trusted friends. Let them know how you’re feeling and plan some catch-ups or fun activities.
Writing down how you’re feeling each day and visualising yourself back training and playing can be a powerful aspect of recovery and keep you focused on the end goal.
It’s important to communicate with someone you trust about how you are feeling so they can help support you. This could be a family member, partner, coach, mate or another player. If you don’t feel ready to talk to someone you know, click here to see a list of support people who can help.
For some people feelings of sadness or anger, as a result of injury, can be very strong and may stick around or even get worse. This could mean feeling sad and down for long periods of time or worrying a lot more than usual. If this is the case for you or someone you know, it’s important to seek help as soon as possible. If you’re worried about feeling down you can try the self-test for depression here, or the anxiety test here if you’re feeling on edge and worried.