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Recovering from injury: Making the most of your down time

Nicole Westlund, PhD Candidate
Western University, London, Ontario, Canada
Mental Coach, Eclipse Performance

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Combining imagery with injury recovery is something that is not as common as the other uses for imagery that I discussed in my earlier blog posts. Only recently have coaches and sport psychologists begun to utilize its benefits.

An injury is something that every athlete will likely experience at some point during their career. No athlete wants to be injured because it takes valuable time away from training, practicing and competing. Imagery can be very useful in terms of managing the stress and pain of your injury. You could visualize yourself blocking the pain, dispersing it to other places, or distracting yourself from it. You can also visualize the injured part of your body healing itself. This is really interested, because you can actually increase the blood flow in the injured area of your body, which can help speed up the recovery process.

If you do find yourself injured, it is important to continue to attend team training sessions while you are recovering, as long as your doctor is okay with it. Although you cannot physically perform drills with your team, you can visualize what you would be doing if you were actually out there. Feel your body go through the sport movements and picture how you would interact with your teammates during each play. This helps keep your mind sharp and ready to go back into the game quicker once your injury is healed.

Another important way that imagery can be used during injury recovery is for motivation. Many athletes experience negative emotions when sidelined with an injury. Keeping a positive mindset and visualizing yourself getting better and going back out on the field is a crucial part of the recovery process. Setting rehabilitation goals and seeing yourself achieving them can also help keep your focus on getting back into the game one step at a time and banishing those negative feelings that you may experience.

The only time when imagery should not be used in injury recovery is when you are recovering from a concussion. Your first priority should be allowing your brain to rest and recover. Only when it is approved by your doctor, should you begin to use imagery in the ways I just described to get yourself back into competition shape.

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