Sport Psychology for Injured Athletes

Sport Psychology for injured athletes looks a little different than it does for currently competing athletes, but the mindset skills are the same.

The Importance of the Mind During Injury Recovery

When you have a BETTER MINDSET, you HEAL FASTER. Healing faster leads to a QUICKER RETURN. 

The mind is an important player during the recovery from an injury. There are going to be worries, stresses, achievements, and successes. Without a solid mindset, the negative moments will be a lot harder to overcome. Mental skills will increase your excitement level for recovery, increase your confidence, and potentially decrease your time out of the game.  

How to have a Successful Injury Recovery

Athletes recover from injuries in different ways and at different speeds. We know what it takes to have a successful recovery and it all starts with your mindset.

In our program, we discuss every aspect of the injury recovery process and what it takes to be successful when you return to your sport. We will create goals that will set you up for success daily and provide you direction for the future. Your confidence will be built through learning what you can control, creating a positive thought pattern, and facing your fears head-on. We will also discuss imagery and relaxation techniques to help your body heal and prepare you for the day that you return.

This program is a must for every athlete who wants to return to their sport with better abilities than the day they got injured. Injuries can be devastating; how you respond determines your success. By signing up for the Complete Mental Game Program, you are betting on yourself and showing everyone else that this injury is not going to stop you from getting better as an athlete. Show people that you have what it takes to be a successful athlete even when you can’t play.

Injuries Bring Up Questions

We’re sure that you have a lot of questions surrounding your injury. 

  • When can I return to play?
  • Do I need surgery?
  • How bad is it?
  • What is the injury?

You also have questions for your coach:

  • What can I do during practice?
  • Did I lose my starting spot?
  • Do I have a scholarship?
  • Are you mad at me?

There are many questions that you are going to have throughout the return. You are going to get answers to some. You will not get answers to others. However, having a solid mindset will allow you to take the answers and non-answers to your questions in stride. 

For example:

You are at your first doctor’s appointment and you have a lot of questions for the doctor. You ask if you need surgery. The doctor says yes. There is a lot of disappointment, anger, and sadness associated with that answer. How do you respond?


You are in the middle of your recovery; getting closer to that return to play date. You ask your physical therapist/athletic trainer “when can I return to play?”. They say about another 8 weeks of rehab before starting sports drills. That is not what you wanted to hear; how do you respond? 

You either have mental skills to take that answer, figure out the next steps, and move forward with recovery; or you struggle with the answer, feel stuck, and delay recovery.

What questions do you have about your injury and recovery? And how are you going to respond if the answers are not what you expect?

Stages of Injury Recovery

As you are working through the injury process your athletic trainer, physical therapist, and doctor will talk you through the stages of physical recovery. There are 4 main stages:

  • Acute – the moment the injury happens.
  • Sub-acute – the first couple of days, to the first few weeks depending on the injury.
  • Active Rehabilitation – Building back strength and motion.
  • Functional Rehabilitation – Performing sport-specific drills.

Every athlete moves through these stages of healing at different speeds depending on the injury. If you have a sprained ankle, your recovery timeline will be different compared to someone who is recovering from ACL surgery. You don’t know how long you are going to be in a certain stage until you get to the end of that stage. 

Mental Skills for Your Recovery Stage

Different mental skills will help you work through each stage as well. Learning these skills will help you finish the stage you are in and will help you with the other stages.

  • Goal-setting – having an understanding of how to set goals and setting them for down the road will give you something to achieve.
  • Confidence – You’re going to feel stuck at some point. Knowing how to regain confidence when you feel stuck will help during the tough middle sections of recovery.
  • Imagery – Incorporating imagery into your rehab will help prepare your mind and body for the day you return to play.
  • Relaxation – Knowing how to relax your muscles and relieve tension will help your body heal quickly. 

Once you are through the initial acute phase, you do not stop setting goals. Once you return to play, you should not stop using imagery. The skills you learn during recovery are beneficial once you’ve returned to play.

What’s Next for You

Right now, injury recovery is part of your preparation for your next game. You have to do what you can to be ready for that game. Your routines have changed and mental skills should be a part of that routine. Without good preparation, things will be harder and take longer. 

You deserve to have the best team surrounding you during this injury recovery process. By adding a sport counselor to your team, you are adding a key member. You will have more success with a sport counselor on your team.

Want to learn more about how to have a successful return to play process? Sign-up for an initial consultation to discuss working together.

Have you already made a return from injury? Here’s more information about the Sterling Sport Mindset approach to working on your Complete Mental Game.