Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Injury Outlook

Injuries are a part of sports, just as bad calls and heckling fans. Unfortunately for the New England Patriots, Tom Brady's injury is devastating - at least, at first glance. Often times, an injury to one player leaves an opportunity for another to step in and step up.

It could be predicted that the team's system will take over without the new age star, with supermodel and real estate investments soothing his side - after all, the aforementioned program is the basic mantra of the Pats anyway. Brady thrives in Belichick's system because he has the work ethic, leadership ability, and talent to enhance the framework. And he had his chance after Drew Bledsoe went down. Maybe Matt Cassel's strengths as a two sport athlete and former Earthquake Kid will help.

As for Brady and his upcoming psychological challenges, the recovery process will be dependent on his mental game. Perhaps his tough mindset will aid him in a quicker recovery from a physical standpoint, as his motivation to get healthy and stick to the rehab plan will become priorities. Research has shown that a positive frame of mind and the ability to imagine oneself healing do indeed speed recovery.

Athletes who are able to modify their outlook by interpreting events in an effective manner are more likely to come back mentally strong. Feedback from video that instantly reminds a player of what she could do pre-injury is a technique that needs to be utilized...and replaying the situations over and over again with a desired outcome via mental imagery is also helpful.

The mental aspect of becoming completely comfortable on the field again will be Brady's highest hurdle. Athletes often run the risk of re-injury because they overcompensate muscles during movements or continue to visualize a similar occurrence of the pain and suffering. The ability to convince oneself that he can compete again is a barrier with which many an athlete struggles, as "...the psychology of being banged up is very different than that of recovering from surgery."

The mind does not always know when the body is actually healed; thus, one's thoughts may construct images that relate to the original incident. Maladaptive cognitions can increase anxiety and fear and, of course, wipe away any confidence the athlete may have.

Depending on the status of the athlete, especially if he is one who has not reached the pinnacle, having to sit out can be a positive situation. I have known many athletes that have been forced to watch from the sidelines due to injury or another reason, and in retrospect, the time away is what they needed for their development. For instance, take Michael Crabtree, the top receiver in college football:

Allen Wilson, the coach at Carter High, says the year off was a blessing for Crabtree, giving him time to learn the nuances of playing receiver. Better still, it fueled him, adding to the hunger that Wilson believes makes the receiver special: "Not getting to play that year was the best thing that could have happened to him."
Not that Brady needs any time off, of course.


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