Sports Pitch

Injury and Mental Health [Mental Health Awareness Week 2023]

Last updated: 6.31am, Tuesday 16th May 2023 by

No matter if you are an elite athlete or a weekend warrior, injuries happen in sport. Injuries can often be managed with little to no disruption in sport participation and other activities of daily living. However, we can often forget the potential that some injuries impose a substantial physical and mental burden. Research shows that suffering injury and time away from sport can be a significant risk factor for mental health issues in both elite sport and recreational athletes.

Why can a physical injury affect our mental health?

Many of us exercise to improve our physical and mental health and when we are unable to do this it causes frustration, feelings of anger and sadness and can affect our mood. For those involved in team sports, it can lead to isolation away from the team environment and lonely solo rehabilitation. For those who take part in individual sports, it can lead you to be alone with your thoughts.

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I’m worried about getting back to sport?

Studies have found elevated levels of anxiety and depression particularly with long term injury. A fear about not being able to return to sport can feature heavily on the minds of athletes. Understanding our mental aspect of the rehabilitation from an injury is known as our psychological readiness. This is something everyone who takes part in sport needs to be aware of.

Psychological readiness is not always thought about when we get injured. We tend to focus on physical factors such as range of movement, strength, stability and flexibility but it is an important factor to think about. Sustaining an injury that can keep athletes out for long periods of time, such as an anterior cruciate ligament injury, up to two thirds of patients do not return to previous activity levels despite being ‘physically recovered’. This leads us to ask, why?

The main reasons given for not returning to pre-injury levels are around fear of sustaining another injury and not trusting the injured joint. For many, the longer the recovery the more likely you are to mentally struggle with a return to sport and activity.

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What can I do to help?

This is something to discuss with your physiotherapist who is there not only to help with your physical return to sport but also to prepare you mentally and emotionally. By fostering a good relationship with your physiotherapist, you will create a safe space to discuss your short term and long term goals and don’t be afraid to discuss your worries and concerns. Setting goals and targets is an important part of the rehabilitation from any injury. It may be tempting to push yourself when you don’t feel physically or emotionally prepared, this is actually more likely to cause re-injury. So be open and honest with the people supporting you through rehabilitation. Take confidence from achieving your goals, be kind to yourself and get back when it feels right .

If there is something you're worried about pleae visit our team at Hampden Sports Clinic. To get in touch, book an appointment or more info please call 0141 616 6161 or email