Unfortunately, in this brutal and barbaric sport we love, you’re “going” to get injured.

It’s not if, it’s when.

There’s not much that you can do about that, all you can do is be prepared to deal with it mentally.

And unfortunately, your injury history matters to pro teams.

Today we’re going to talk about how to deal with it when it happens.

Besides, when you go down, somebody is stepping in your place on the depth chart, so you’d better know how to make that time away from the game as productive as you can…

That’s if you want to reclaim your spot when you return.

So I did some research as usual, and thought I’d share what I found, regarding tips that’ll help you mentally deal with being out due to injury.


Lesson #1 – Set Goals


In “Dealing with Injuries,” they bring up a very good suggestion, and that’s to set goals.

Buffalo Bills’ cornerback Terrence McGee’s pro career has been plagued by injuries. (ICON Sports)

Goals are important, because they not only help you set the direction of your progress, but they can also be motivating; and I can’t think of a point time where a player needs more motivation, than when he’s going through a bad injury that has him on the sidelines.

Goals increase in their effectiveness when they’re realistic and objective.

When I say “objective”, I mean that you can clearly see whether you met the goal(s) or not.

Being out of the game due to the injury can lead to depression and a bunch of other bad emotions, so goal setting can really help you get back on the field.

You may be asking, “What kind of goals can I set if I’m injured?”

Well, in the “Dealing with Injuries…” article they give a few examples to give you an idea.

>> Related: Preventing Concussions in Football – What Every Football Player Should Know – Part 1


Below is one of the many examples they give of goals you can set for yourself when you’re out injured.

They give you the goal, then follow it up with the benefit, or effect, you’ll get from setting that specific goal.

Goal: An increase of 10 more repetitions on recovery exercises every week

Effect: An increase in the number of recovery exercises over time, with exercises becoming increasingly demanding


Think about it.  If you’re able to get 10 more reps on your recovery exercises each week, are you more likely to be depressed and negative, or excited and optimistic?

>> Related: Strength Training – How to Recover Faster From Workouts – Part 1

I think you’re starting to understand the power of goal-setting.

Goals like this help you “keep your eyes on the prize.”

Don’t wait on your trainer to ask you to set goals.

Tell your trainer that you want to set some goals, and ask for their help in helping you figure out tangible, realistic goals to reach for throughout your recovery.


Lesson #2 – Use Visualization


In the same article, they talk about the power of using visualization to not only get through being out due to injury, but to even take advantage of it.

They break visualization down to three parts:

  1. Emotional rehearsal
  2. Physical rehearsal
  3. Fast healing


Below, is a brief explanation of each:


Emotional rehearsal. The purpose of this one is to generate feelings of confidence and optimism.

This one involves visualizing a positive experience you had on the field in the past.

When you first start out with this, you want to do it for 10 minutes, if you can, then you want to gradually increase the amount of time you spend doing it.

They even give you the steps to going through one of these exercises:


Close your eyes.

Take a few deep breaths in order to become completely relaxed and comfortable.

Allow your mind to drift back to one of your best sporting performances.

Once you have located a time, begin internally recreating the experience.

Imagine that you are watching your performance on a giant widescreen TV

Pay attention to every visual detail of the experience, making sure that the image is rich in colour, and it is 3D.

If the image is still turn it into a movie.

If the image is distant bring it as close to you as possible, to point where everything on your imaginary screen is as clear as possible.

Notice the sounds that were occurring during your past success

Make sure that the sounds are as clear and as lifelike as possible.

Combine the sounds and moving images so it becomes no different to watching a film at the cinema.

Allow your internal sights and sounds to generate all of the good feelings that you felt at the time.

Indulge in these feelings.

Here are a couple of interventions that will help to increase the effectiveness of this intervention:

Play music while you use this visualisation technique

Use it just before you go to sleep (This is because your mind is highly receptive just before you fall asleep).

During an injury this application of visualisation will help keep the athlete feeling positive and optimistic. As I have stated in many of my other articles on this website one the biggest predictor of behaviour is state.


Sorry.  I know that was long, but I felt it would be better to post those details here on the site.


Physical Rehearsal. Since our minds can’t tell the difference between what’s imagined and what’s real, this technique allows you to maintain your skills, or possibly even get better, by mentally rehearsing your on-field techniques in your mind.


Like the previous type of visualization, they recommend that you start off doing this for 10 minutes, then gradually increase the time spent.

Here are their tips for getting going on this type of visualization:

Close your eyes.

Get yourself feeling relaxed and comfortable by taking a series of deep breaths.

Imagine that you are sitting in front a large cinema screen and you are watching yourself perform.

Now drift into the image of yourself that you are watching, so that you are now seeing everything from your own eyes.

Notice the physical sensations of your sporting action, paying attention to how each of your technical actions physically feels.

Examine your body position, noticing how you carry your body when you are performing at your best.

Sharpen up all of your visual senses so that everything that you are seeing is clear vivid, and full of colour.

Now introduce all of the sounds that you would experience if you were actually performing.

Run your physical performance over and over again in your mind, pulling together all the sights, sounds and feelings of the physical actions of your sport.


Fast Healing. Now this one might be hard for many of you to believe in, but I personally believe it can work.

I’m a firm believer that there’s power in your thoughts, and what you think about, you bring about.

Anyways, this visualization technique is done to help you speed up your healing process.

They mention that you can be creative with how you go about this process, but they give you the following example of how you can do it:


Close your eyes.

Get yourself relaxed and comfortable by taking a series of deep breaths.

Allow your focus internally drift towards the injured part of your body.

Once you are physically aware of this body part imagine a bright healing light moving across the body part.

Create an image of your body part becoming stronger and healthier as this healing light continues to shine on the injury.

Notice the positive internal feelings that this light is creating, and notice the better you feel the brighter the light becomes.

Take time to create an internal image of the healing light mending the wound.

After the 10 minute period open your eyes.

This exercise should be used regularly during an injury. Here are some good times to practice this technique:

Before you go to sleep.

When you wake up.


Lesson #3 – Learn about Your Injury


In “Coping with Sports Injuries,” Elizabeth Quinn, an exercise physiologist, who has a Master’s degree in sport science, says that we should take it upon ourselves to learn about our injuries.

It’s great to have a good training staff, and I certainly encourage that you listen to what they have to say, but do it for your own mental well-being..

Don’t stop coming around just because you’re injured.

As she mentioned, not knowing what’s going on can lead to anxiety and fear.


Why not nip that in the bud, and Google the heck out of your injury?

The more you learn, the more educated questions you can ask you doctor and/or trainer as you go through the rehabbing process.

Besides, nobody cares about you, like you.

She even gives you a sample list of things to research and to make sure that you know:


•What is my diagnosis (what type of injury do I have)?

•How long will recovery take?

•What is the purpose of the treatments I am receiving?

•What should I expect during rehab?

•What alternative workouts can I safely do?

•What are the warning signs that I am getting worse?


Lesson #4 – There’s Power in Accepting Responsibility


Elizabeth brought up another good point, and that’s to take responsibility for the injury.

But that doesn’t mean that you blame yourself for the injury, it just means that the faster you come to the realization that it’s up to you to put in the work to recover, the better.

Once you accept responsibility, you’ll develop a better sense of control.

I’m sure this is really effective if you feel yourself still wallowing in anger and blame.


Lesson #5 – Don’t Stop Coming Around


Elizabeth brings this up, and her reasoning is that if you continue to come around your teammates, coaches and friends, it can help you when it comes to mentally getting through the rough time.

While I agree with her, being a former collegiate player, I can tell you that it shows that you’re a good teammate, and that it’s not all about you, which your teammates (and the coaching staff) will notice and appreciate.

If you all of a sudden fall off the map just because you’re injured, in essence, you’re sending a message to your teammates and coaches that it’s all about you.  You’re showing no concern for the well-being of the team.

It’s already bad enough that somebody else is filling your role physically now that you’re gone.

You don’t want to have the “he’s all about himself” thing going against you as well.

I’m not saying be phony, but don’t stop coming around just because you’re injured.  It can help you in more ways than one.

Now will these tips make going through your injury an easier?

Maybe, or maybe not.

But what these tips can do is help you turn lemons into lemonade, and help you improve your chances of coming back quicker, faster, and stronger than you were before your injury.

Isn’t that what you want?

By the way, yoga helps a lot when you’re going through injuries, too.  Be sure to check out the posts on yoga below in the “Related Items” section.

Do you have any other tips for guys going through an injury?  Leave a comment below!

Follow me on Twitter!  @alvingrier

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P.S., If you want to check out some of the articles I referenced for today’s post, the links to them are below:

Dealing with injuries: The psychological approach Introduction

Coping with Sports Injuries

The Mental Side of Athletic Injuries 

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