Mentally Overcoming Tough Injuries

October 7, 2011 | Nicholas Welch

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Shannon Becker on Injury Prevention

NFL players suffered some brutal injuries this past weekend. Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison suffered a broken orbital bone around his right eye, and Indianapolis Colts defensive tackle Eric Foster dislocated his ankle.

These and other injured athletes will spend plenty of time working with their trainers to get their bodies back to 100 percent, but the most difficult part of the recovery process may be mental.

Dr. William Parham, a sports psychologist in Irvine, Calif., thinks that injuries are tough to handle for athletes because of their identity. "Participation in athletics, especially at the professional level, is not just participation in a game. It's a part of who that player is. It becomes who they are and how they identify themselves," Parham told ABC News. "When somebody snatches from them the opportunity to express themselves through athletics, that can be devastating."

Daniel Gould, a professor of sports psychology at Michigan State University, says that even when an athlete is completely recovered physically, he or she still might not be mentally ready. "You've done all you could to recover, but until somebody takes a really hard shot at your knee or your ankle, and you can get up, you're not confident," he said in an ABC News interview.

So what should you do when you suffer a painful injury on the field? Drew Brannon, formerly with the University of Georgia's Counseling and Sport Psychology Department, talked to STACK about how athletes can deal with fear of re-injury.

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"We have to help the athlete feel comfortable out there," says Brannon. "They have to have realistic expectations. No one expects them to go out there on day one and be just like they were before they were injured. They have to understand that it's going to be a process."

Watch the rest of Brannon's interview to learn more about dealing with fear of re-injury.

Photo:  Associated Press

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