ACL Injury, Mindset, and Self-Identity
ACL injury and surgery can be a devastating season ending or career ending injury. Many athletes make the great comeback but many athletes also are unable to return to the same level of play as before the injury. It is very common for athletes to experience a variety of issues including anxiety, depression, loss of self-worth, or loss of self-identity. We are athletes. We give it our all out there on the field and in the weight room every day. We prepare mentally and physically for our sport. Sport is life. And when all of that is ripped from underneath you in an instant it can be extremely hard to cope with.
Many athletes associate their self-identity with their successes in their sport and losing that sport and the team they were a part of can make them feel lost, helpless, alone, and not themselves. It is important to help these athletes learn a new sense of self-worth outside of their athletic abilities. Take some of the same qualities that make them a great competitive athlete and find ways to use those in other aspects of life in order to gain confidence in other areas than just athletics. Finding support online is very helpful because no one can relate to your ACL injury unless they have been through it before. This will help you to remain hopeful and to have a sense of belonging other than with your team who will unfortunately continue playing without you.
It can also be helpful to join another safer sport while you are recovering. Try things like golf, or even ping pong. It will give you something to focus on that you are able to do so that you can channel your competitive nature into something new and positive versus focusing on the sport you cannot play. Remember that comparing yourself to others is not going to help you to recover any faster and it is not going to change the fact that you tore your ACL. Finding new activities will be a great compromise because building your self-worth and confidence away from your sport is the only way to remain happy and focused on the present moment during your long recovery journey.