Posts Tagged ‘injury’

Athletes Returning From Injury… and other Monsters In The Closet

Saturday, July 30th, 2011


Working with athletes returning from injury over the years has taught me a few things…

These athletes, at the end of their tether and contemplating throwing in the towel over their fears when returning from injury, been told by others to toughen up or get a grip. But when you are the one on the inside looking out this fear is real; holds a huge amount of emotional weight; and can dominate every waking hour.

If we believe in the notion that we don’t do anything in life unless it holds some value for us – then why do we let our imagination push our buttons and punish us with crippling and apparent uncontrollable fear when there is no logical need for it?

Take an athlete recovering from an injury: if there is no technical or mechanical reason to fear the sport or even the move again, why do so many athletes buckle with fear when getting back into the game?

Statistically speaking, we know these highly successful athletes are crippled by something that will probably never happen to them!

So why do they do it to themselves? Why do these athletes allow what they intellectually know as bogus appear so real.

And how do we, as Mind Coaches, manage this behavioural anomaly pragmatically?

Our true fear mechanism is all part of our vital and finely tuned fight or flight process. This innate, subconscious reaction emanates from our limbic system in our brain and protects us in extreme or life threatening situations.

So for this reason, we don’t want to tamper with this fight or flight process too often. However, if we think of it more like a brain surgeon, we can sort through the many different sections and stimulants of the brain and switch on or off a desired or undesired response.

Your first awareness of an irrational fear probably manifested itself in the same way it did for most of us: the monster in the closet and the ghosts under the bed! Over the years, we now know there is no such thing as monsters in the closet and ghosts hiding under your bed!!

But, as a kid it wouldn’t have mattered how many times you were shown the empty closet or rationalised that there is nothing under your bed other than old socks, broken toys and plenty of dust – you would have still had that irrational fear in the back of your mind convincing you that it is all too real and to believe otherwise was either naive or a mistake.

Your imagination would have been the major contributor to support and feed the monster – the emotional monster that is, not the actual monster.

So a coach telling an athlete to get on with it or suck it up would have the same amount of success as telling the child the closet is empty.

We often think, construct and imagine the worst case scenario when faced with decisions in life. This helps us to manage the full spectrum of scenarios IF they do in fact eventuate. However we know that once we have thought something it is impossible to UN-think it! So it suddenly becomes a legitimate option in our brains, something that could occur, that maybe has, until now, been completely off the radar.

So now that this worst case senario is very much ON the radar, how do we stop our over-active imagination eating away at our performance, our effectiveness and even our sanity?


1.  The Root Cause

Establish what was the catalyst to the fear. Was it a past incident, a past observation or something concocted in our over active minds. There would have been a start point, a stage where the irrationality started. Even the concocted option would have it’s roots in something tangible.

2.  Smother that cause in logic
Take the emotion out of the cause and replace it with logic. Desensitise it’s effects and break it down into so many components that for all those ducks to be in a row again would be so unlikely it would almost be impossible.


Establish why it initially occurred in detail, so as to build structure around it, preventing it happening for a second time.

Just the pragmatic process of establishing a plan will instantly reduce the emotional weight of the imagined option, but to completely sideswipe this unproductive emotional thought – we replace it. We replace it with something desirable and with just as much emotional weight. This can be achieved through active strategy structuring and with targeted hypnosis.

If you think about how we ‘beat’ the monster in the closet or the ghost under the bed – it was either by growing up and thinking logically there is no such thing nor could there be, or we employed our own bigger, meaner monster to overpower the weak closet monster!

Whichever option works for you – employ it!!