Life As A Footballer: Injuries

Young or old, a striker or a defender, experienced or inexperienced, you can’t run from injuries. The dark side of the game that no player likes to go through, yet at some stage or another in your career, you will encounter.

Injuries: Part and parcel of the game

Injuries are part and parcel of the game and at some point in your career, you are going to suffer an injury. Whether it is a serious one or not, they are without a doubt a horrible time and every player’s nightmare! Although they are unfortunately a part of the journey, dealing with them and overcoming them is no small feat. It requires a lot of self-discipline, perseverance and patience amongst other things to come through the other side.

A clash of heads left me on the floor severely concussed, before I suffered a seizure seconds later. This injury was one I couldn’t prepare for!

Different types of injuries in football

Injuries fall into two categories:

  • Long-term
  • Short-term

Long-term can be anything from 6 weeks up to 12 months plus, whilst short-term injuries are normally anything under 6 weeks. However, short-term injuries can feel like long-term ones when you’re the player going through them.

Types of injuries that can occur are:

  • Muscular tears
  • Ligament tears
  • Bone breaks

Some injuries require surgical treatment, whilst some just need rest and rehabilitation. The healing period and timescales vary by player, some will recover quicker than others, whilst some may take slightly longer.

Being carried off the pitch following the clash of heads and suffering a seizure in an FA Cup game against Tottenham Hotspur.

What emotions come with injuries in football?

Being unable to do what you love is extremely frustrating and demoralising. Going from training every day, to being sat in the gym and watching games is a bitter pill to swallow. As players we are programmed to play football and be able to participate in exercise, so to have that taken away from us is a real struggle.

With injuries come many different emotions. Each emotion can be felt once or numerous times throughout the recovery process. Below are some emotions that you will experience when suffering from an injury:

  • Shock
  • Sadness
  • Frustration
  • Jealousy
  • Self-doubt
  • Loneliness
  • Anger
  • Anxiety

There are a lot of emotions that I haven’t mentioned above that you may also feel. Each emotion comes with its own challenges, on top of the physical challenge of getting back fit.

Being injured can be a lonely place. Picture by Tom Mulholland

How do injuries affect the minds of players?

The first few days/weeks after the injury can be the most difficult time in the recovery process. The initial shock has worn off and the realisation of facing time out of the game has begun to sink in.

Short-term injuries are a lot easier to manage mentally because the return date is normally within reach and you will feel as if you aren’t far away from returning to doing what you love.

However, long-term injuries are more challenging, physically and mentally. Receiving the news that you are facing a lengthy spell on the sidelines is a crushing blow and can be a very worrying period. With no end in sight and a long rehabilitation programme ahead, it is no surprise that players struggle to find any positives in the situation.

Opening up and leaning on people around you doesn’t only make you feel better, it also helps those in your support network understand what you are going through and support you where they can.

As hard as it is to be out injured, you have to find a way to channel all of that negative energy and use it to spur you on. Whether it’s a short-term or long-term injury, there will be days where you struggle and find yourself lacking motivation and self-belief, but it is in those moments that you have to push through and keep going.

Every day is a day closer to returning to training, so remember that when you see no end in sight. Sometimes you will feel as if you are getting nowhere with your recovery and you’re not progressing how you’d hoped. Again, all you can do is keep on going and working hard with your physios, S&C coaches or the medical expert that is helping you. Trust in their expertise and trust in the process that you are going through.

Mental scars from injuries can be just as big as the physical ones.

How can you prevent injuries from happening?

The truth is you can’t! You can do everything correctly off of the pitch, in terms of lifestyle choices, but still pick up injuries along the way. There is no telling when an injury will occur and they are something you can’t prepare yourself for.

Although you can’t guarantee that you will never get injured, you can make sure that you are doing everything correctly, which can limit the chances of injury.

Things you can control:

  • Fuelling your body correctly
  • Living a professional lifestyle
  • Doing your strength and prehab sessions
  • Getting enough rest
  • Stretching
  • Warming up and cooling down correctly

Our body is like a car, if we don’t put the correct fuel in or we don’t regularly get it serviced, things start to go wrong and eventually end up breaking down.

Being injured is tough to accept and you will always wonder what you could have done differently to avoid it, but when you have taken control of the controllable’s mentioned above, you will have no regrets when an injury does unfortunately occur.

Your body is placed under immense strain when training every day and playing games. Combine that with potentially a 15-year career and inevitably you will have wear and tear in places on the body.

By living the correct lifestyle and doing your best to look after your body and mind, you will be giving yourself the best opportunity to limit the number of injuries that you pick up.

You may have done everything correctly off of the field but still picked up an injury. This is disheartening and leaves you questioning a lot of things because you have ensured that you have given yourself the best chance to stay injury-free. Instead, you’ve ended up on the treatment table.

Rather than being down to lack of professionalism, this is just extremely unfortunate and as hard as it is to accept, you can only concentrate on your rehab and coming back a better and stronger player!

No player likes to be out of action for any period of time. Image by Tom Mulholland

My experiences with injuries

The last few seasons have been nothing short of a nightmare for me.

I have always been a player who makes sure they’re living right off of the pitch, to the best of my ability. For example, I am always making sure I am doing my prehab and preparing my body for training and games.

But you can’t affect things outside of your control and you can’t avoid bad luck!

I know that my attitude and professionalism hasn’t been in vain because I couldn’t avoid the injuries I have had, unless I played within myself and held back from giving my all every time I played.

That doesn’t mean that I haven’t struggled mentally though!

It’s been extremely tough on not only myself but my family too. Having the support of family and friends has been an incredible help though.

Although I’ve been going through physical pain, being able to share the mental pain and lean on those around me has been a great help.

No player ever wants to be out injured and there is always a sense of embarrassment when suffering an injury. It’s hard to describe but you try your best to avoid people so that you don’t have to discuss your injury and be reminded of your current situation.

But really there is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about. Injuries are part and parcel of the game. Everyone will struggle with some form of physical injury in their career, some are just more fortunate than others when it comes to the severity of those injuries.

When injured you have to trust the process and focus on the things you can control. Picture by Tom Mulholland

Injuries are going to be a part of your journey in the game. All you can do is make sure that you are giving yourself the best chance possible by being professional and looking after your body. You will regret not doing so when you pick up injuries.

Don’t wait for an injury to happen to wish you had looked after your body better!

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