This is THE book!

This is the book and the community that I had been looking for. And I would recommend that if you know an injured athlete, then this book is probably the best gift that you could give them.

I came across it when I was listening to one of the podcast series that I often listen to and heard it mentioned: ‘Rebound: Train your Mind to Bounce Back Stronger from Sports Injuries’ by Carrie Jackson Cheadle and Cindy Kuzma.  As well as reading it cover to cover, and going back through it over and over, I also discovered the Podcast series and the Facebook page under the title of ‘The Injured Athletes Club’.

Practical support

The book has forty-nine mental drills that map against fifteen key mental skills that you can build to aid recovery from injury. It is built from real experience helping athletes through successful rehabilitation from injury – and the core belief that one can rebound from injury.

The book includes

  • narratives describing athletes’ journeys through injury, including the key inflection points
  • Scientific explanations of the underlying psychology
  • Key points to take away and work on
  • Specific mental drills that you can incorporate into your recovery

But perhaps the community is the most important part

The book opens with talking about the fact that you are not alone, and that with that pillar in place – there is a path forward.

The community allows for the stages of grieving – accepting and defusing the negative emotions, finding the clarity and support for the steps needed for your progress and then having a genuine cheerleading group to celebrate the simple, baby-steps steps of progress towards your bigger goals.

What I really like about the book

What I really like about the book is the fact that it is flexible and multi-faceted, so you can keep coming at things from different angles and building up even as your situation evolves and changes – whether that is progress or a slip backwards.

I hope that it brings you or your friends support and strength when this is most needed.

Affirmations and Mantras for healing

Self-talk is known to be one of the most important parts of mental strength. Athletes consistently use it (often together with visualisation) to help with performance under pressure. My suggestion is that it is just as important when you are injured and facing the challenges of recovery and rehabilitation.

Are you wondering what is self-talk? I define it as the voice in your head that chatters constantly, about all kinds of things and at times can escalate to a full-on internal debate. But there is good evidence that the mind takes these messages and images very seriously, driving changes in the hormonal system and the nervous system which in turn have very significant physical impacts (as well as changing your thought patterns going forward).

Affirmations or mantras are usually short, pithy phrases to insert positive messages into the mind. I would also be remiss not to mention that in the Hindu faith and yoga mantras are chanted, with specific mantras to generate powerful sound waves that promote healing, and the relaxation from the ancient practice of gong therapy or ‘sound bathing’.

This is something that many people write about. I especially enjoyed Carole’s blog from 2014 where she talked about Dr Coue’s mantra (or autosuggestion as he called it) where in conjunction with their medical treatment, they would say over and over to themselves 20 times in the morning and 20 times in the evening ‘Every day, in every way, I am getting better and better’. Read more on this inspiring story from over 100 years ago, plus some great tips and book recommendations in Carole’s blog:

What kind of mantras help?

When I was running ultramarathons and doing Ironman triathlons, I used mantras a lot and found:

  • It needs to be positive. I had a spin teacher who used ‘mine is the power and the glory’ as a mantra, and I know that many people find these universally positive exhortations very useful– hence the Ironman slogan of ‘Impossible is Nothing’.
  • It needs to be realistic at that moment! For instance, telling myself ‘I love to run’ is true, but in the final stages of ultra-marathons or long-distance triathlons the voice on my shoulder would scream back ‘I don’t right now – I want to stop!’ so I would use simple exhortations like ‘run for home’ or ‘nice and steady’.
  • It is better when it is process-based.  There are times in a long race where the final finish line seems too far away to engage with, and so process-based mantras worked better for me. This seems a strong parallel with the uncertainty on outcomes in recovery and rehabilitation. So just as I would focus on technique points in races like ‘keep my rhythm’, ‘nice and light’, which brings the benefits to keeping good technique at a time when tiredness can reduce form. In the same way in the tough part of recovery focus on the exercises, release work, nutrition, hydration and sleep patterns can reinforce the positive habits that will make a difference.
  • It is not helpful to set specific goals that you then miss. Whilst I have spent many races setting myself a challenge for the next split time, or the person that I would overtake, these are only useful when you hit the goal and then set the next goal. Missing them really can really drag you down, as it allows the internal critic to keep saying that today is not your day and you may as well just give up.

How do I apply that to my recovery?

It is really useful to reaffirm your strengths and the resilience that you bring to this situation: from the factual such as ‘we have a good plan and next steps with the medical team’ or ‘we are focused & determined and will get to the bottom of this’, ‘I have what I need to get through this’, ‘all of this strength and conditioning will make me a better athlete’ to the more aspirational ‘we will beat this’, ‘I’ll be back’, ‘my body is amazing’ and ‘I’ve come through tough times before and I will again’.

Also to recognise all of the people on your side and rooting for you: ‘I am in great hands’, ‘I am surrounded by love and support’, ‘I stand shoulder-to-shoulder with my team’, ‘I am enveloping my body in love and kindness’.

Reaffirming the sense of progress – even when it is too small to see: ‘every day of careful nutrition and good sleep helps my body to rebuild’, ‘little by little my body is healing itself’ and ‘every step towards recovery helps me’, ‘cell by cell my body is rebuilding itself’.

Some people find perspective very useful – for example: ‘whilst this is tough, people are facing much worse than this and getting through it’.

Some inspiring quotes

This link includes some inspiring quotes for injured athletes that could be used as mantras:

https://www.theodysseyonline.com/25-quotes-inspire-injured-athletes

So why not try it?

How about choosing a favourite mantra and use it every day for a week – repeat it under your breath over and over at key points in the day, write it on a post-it and put it on the bathroom mirror or under your pillow, close your eyes and smile gently as you visualise it… the mind is a powerful thing.

Your body and mind are amazing – ‘Every day, in every way, you are getting better and better’

8 great things to give to an injured athlete

We all struggle to know that to say or do for someone who is injured don’t we? So we often just simply avoid them and hope quietly that we will see them back at the Club or in the training group really soon.

So I thought that I would write a note on 8 great things to give to an injured athlete (beyond a card and a bunch of flowers!) to help them:

  1. COMPANY  – whether you go and visit them, or invite them to a meal or drink or something that they can do, this is a game-changer! The most crushing part of injury is that suddenly everything stops and the loneliness can be overwhelming. And interestingly, there is evidence that social inclusion can actually reduce the amount of physical pain experienced! (If you are interested in the science of this, check out the site retrainpain.org and the section on relationships at the bottom of the page)
  2. REGULAR CONTACT – when someone is out for a long time, a regular call, text or message asking genuinely how they are and listening without getting disheartened if it is not good news, or noticing and celebrating progress with them, is a lifeline. It is just a couple of minutes in your day, but may be the only inter-personal contact in their day.
  3. NO MORE ADVICE OR STORIES OF FRIENDS WITH THE SAME AILMENT! – the injured athlete will be getting a ton of advice (and sometimes conflicting and confusing advice) from the various medical parties involved in their treatment. Plus they will be spending every waking moment of the day and sleepless nights, searching the internet, YouTube and social media for advice and experiences. Adding more can feel overwhelming, and can create a sense of frustration or embarrassment about talking with you again. A kind and supportive listening ear is so much more valuable.
  4. SOMETHING TO DISTRACT THEM – a book, a podcast link, a colouring book and pens, magazines. Suddenly the injured athlete will have a ton of time on their hands and an inability to move much, so these are great!
  5. ESSENTIAL OILS/CANDLES AND BATH SALTS – if all they can do is lie flat, essential oil burners and candles can be really nice and calming. And if they are well enough to get into the bath, then nurturing salts etc can be great. A lot of athletes have always run through the shower in the shortest possible time, trying to get onto the next thing – so getting them something that encourages them to slow down is great! And for many muscular issues the mineral salts that are absorbed through the skin are helpful additions to the minerals in the diet.
  6. A MEAL – when you are injured, preparing a meal can be so hard. So a pie or a pot dish that someone brings round is such a support (and avoids all of that worry about weight-gain associated with eating too many chocolates or cake or alcohol when you cannot do any exercise).
  7. A TRAY WITH A CUSHION TO EAT MEALS ON YOUR LAP – when getting out of bed or getting to the table to eat are just too challenging, this is so useful! Together with enough of the right shaped cushions  to be able to get into a comfortable position.
  8. A WHEAT-BAG OR HOT WATER BOTTLE OR REFRESSABLE ICE PACK – depending on whether their injury responds best to heat or cold, having these to hand is such a help (and often medical professionals do not mention them).

HELP YOURSELF! TOP TEN TIPS

When you are injured, the level of incapacity can be overwhelming. Here are my top ten tips of things that you can do to help yourself:

  1. Go online – get your groceries & goods delivered and your banking & services online. Whilst you may not have had the time previously to set this up, it is so easy, and when you are injured, you are home all of the time for things to be delivered!
  2. Find nutritious prepared meals. When every movement is an agony and being on your feet is hard – find the meals that just need putting in the oven and taking out.
  3. If you are really struggling, ask someone for help. A lot of your friends will want to help, but be unsure what they can do. So call them up and ask if one or a group of them can help with cooking a few meals and freezing them, or coming in and stacking the dishwasher every couple of days, walking the dog, taking the kids to school, or whatever that task is.
  4. If you cannot bath or shower, can you get to the leisure centre? Most leisure centres have a shower block which does not involve any steps, and a shower with a seat. So if you can borrow a wheelchair, or get in there with your crutches, you can have a much safer shower than in your own bathroom (which probably has a ton of accessibility challenges). PS – if there are wounds that you really need to keep dry, clingfilm around the area does not work, as the water just goes behind it! You will need to get a large enough waterproof dressing. I found that our local independent pharmacy were really expert on wound dressing and management (so worth phoning around to find who can help you once you are out of hospital).
  5. Set up call-barring for nuisance calls. You will have your phone right next to you as you try to get the appointments that you need and talk with the experts on your injury, but nuisance calls are wearing!
  6. Can a family member do the medical appointments for you? One of the most debilitating things is that there are a ton of phone calls, documents and follow-up with the medical profession. When you are out of it on pain medication, this is close to beyond you! If someone can do this for you, it will be a huge help!
  7. Have a pad on hand and write lists and notes. When you are drifting in and out of shallow sleep, and have taken lots of painkillers, you really struggle to keep on top of things. So just write things down – including things that are worrying you, how you are going to talk with the Doctor tomorrow, things that need to get done etc.
  8. Get a sticker on the door to stop cold callers. You may be happy to struggle to the door for the thoughtful parcel or flowers from friends, but the cold caller is truly frustrating. You can get the sticker from your local police, Neighbourhood Watch or Trading Standards.
  9. Hairdressers etc will all come to you. Whilst you will have been used to rushing around and doing your chores on the run between other things, there are ways that almost everything can come to you.
  10. If you need more help than your friends and family can give, ask for help. Have a look at this website: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/social-care-and-support-guide/ and talk with your GP and also Citizens Advice can help you.

I really hope that these make you feel less alone in facing the challenges associated with your injury. You will come through this and there are people and mechanisms there to help, if you can track them down.

Alex’s courage in talking about the loneliness of her head injury

If you have met Alex Danson MBE (gold medallist with the GB Hockey squad and since then the Captain of the England and GB Hockey teams), you will know her massive heart, her infectious smile and her complete passion for sport and team sport – and hockey especially.

It is so hard to see someone like Alex literally knocked out by the impact of concussion. But her courage in being searingly honest about how hard it is will be a lifeline to others who are injured. I also really hope that it will also be a lifeline to her with the massive outpouring of support for her on social media yesterday, and hopefully going forward in the coming weeks and months.

The most telling parts for me in her interview with The Times yesterday https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/alex-danson-great-britain-hockey-captain-injury-post-0d09vm8bb were these lines:

“One of the hardest parts in all of this, aside from the physical trauma, has been losing my identity,” she wrote. “Going from leading my country, aspiring to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics to just trying to get through a day.

“Head injuries are serious, debilitating and lonely. When I have days when I feel well enough I will document some of my recovery. I’ve not been well enough to up to now and I’ve not been sure whether it’s something I wanted to do.”

They capture so brilliantly the complete stop that comes with an accident and injury, and the new mental framework that you have to build. And Alex’s commitment to make meaning out of this brutal, difficult and unfair injury by documenting her learnings and recovery to help others is totally inspirational.


Alex’s post on her Twitter feed @AlexDanson15 under the comment “It’s been a long 6 months….I’m thankful to say that I am on the road to recovery #mildtraumaticbraininjury”

Concussion is a very serious injury and many sports have now linked together to share the best knowledge. I am not an expert, but I would say that the Birmingham Sports Clinic is open to professional and amateur athletes over 16 years old, from all geographic areas. Instructions and how to get referred can be found here: https://www.uhb.nhs.uk/birmingham-sport-concussion-clinic.htm

Very best of luck for your recovery Alex. We are all rooting for you.