An injury for any athlete is difficult. He or she deals with physical pain, as well as a variety of powerful emotions. Sports injuries in youth can be even more difficult to handle. Kids are not simply “little adults” and therefore are not as physically, emotionally or intellectually developed. An injury to them can feel much more traumatic and “life-ending”. This is why it is important to know how to support them during and after treatment.
The initial emotions after an injury include anger, fear, frustration and discouragement. A skilled doctor can help the athlete feel secure and confident in the prescribed treatment, and support and encouragement at home will solidify that. If the injury is severe and surgery is required, it often will be the youth’s first time experiencing hospitals, anesthesiologists and all that goes along with it. Explaining what will happen and staying positive about the final outcome will help lessen any anxiety.
After surgery it is very important to follow the doctor’s orders. Do not push the child too hard, or allow the child to push himself too far either. Strictly adhering to the recommended recovery and rehabilitation plan will yield the best results, regardless of the pressures to return to the game. Studies have shown that optimism during the rehabilitation process helps the athlete’s emotions shift from the initial negative outlook on the injury to excitement and confidence in returning. Along the same lines, approaching rehab with negativity causes the child to doubt and fear that she can ever play again. Remove any pressure to be healed and perfect right off the bat.
Overall, a parent needs to remember that when helping a child cope and recover from a big injury a balance must be maintained between helping and not helping. Support them, but don’t coddle them. Don’t do things for them that they can do for themselves, even when on crutches or in a wheelchair. Allow them small achievements so they can work up to the bigger ones.
Injuries can be heartbreaking, but they aren’t the end of the road. Recovery is possible and you can help your child athlete navigate the journey back to health and success.
Contact us to learn more about how we can help with the process of healing.