The Mind of the Injured Athlete

As an athlete I always despised my situation when I had an injury. I always thought it so unfair that I got hurt. You do so much to stay healthy and get hurt in such easy ways. It makes you question so many things, you blame a lot of things on the injury, and ultimately it prevents you from doing what you love, training and competing. When I was in high school I suffered a fair amount of injuries but luckily the injury bug avoided me during my wrestling seasons. But the two most impactful injuries of my career happened my Junior year after my season and then I had two separate hand injuries during my senior year. I will talk briefly about my injuries in this post but for the most part what this post is meant to achieve is very simple, to help right the minds of any injured athlete and get them to treat what they may now see as a curse as a blessing in disguise.

Let me preface this by saying that I wanted to write this because I have a slew of injured athletes who my heart hurts for. I know the feeling well of having to sit there and just not be able to do anything, I will talk about that soon. But injuries are a very unfortunate part of sports, especially the one I coach, wrestling. You never know when an injury will happen, that’s because 99.99% of the time they’re an accident. In this post I am going to outline a Five different things that I have learned over the course of my athletic career and now coaching career on how to deal with any and all injuries from the mental aspect of it.

First, how to reframe your mind to treat the injury as a blessing, to not dwell on the negative but make it a positive. Second, I will talk about ways to positively cope and get through an injury, it’s easy to get down and overthink yourself to death, but injuries aren’t the end of the world, they’re part of it. Third, I am going to talk about pitfalls and psychological traps that will occur during an injury, and how to navigate them. Fourth, I will talk about using an injury to motivate you, relight your passion, and come back stronger! Fifth and finally I will chat about how injuries CAN and WILL change your life for the better. All that you think, you become. The mind is powerful, if you train it like you train your body, you will be able to overcome any injury with time and effort!

There are Two Pains in Injuries: Mental and Physical:

Let me start off this post with a brief history of some of my many injuries. I have hurt both knees severely before (never having required surgery thankfully) I have injured both of my thumbs, broken my hand, had soft tissue injuries in my lower back, capsule issues in my feet, had severe shin splints and also broken my nose 7 times. Now, while my list seems somewhat long it’s relatively short to a large amount of athletes I know. I wouldn’t wish injury upon anyone but I have seen and experienced first hand what injury can do to your mind, body and spirit. So, I am going to start this post with a brief story of the 3 injuries that impacted my career the most, both negatively and positively. Injuries are always a two sided coin, the negative and positive of the situation, if you reframe how you think to view the positive with more power you will come back stronger. But baby steps, let’s start with the first significant injury of my athletic career.

It was my junior year of high school, I had quite the season for the most part save for two different things, my weight cut and the way it ended. In the start of the season I was a very strong 126lbs but I stupidly cut all the strength off to make 113lbs. I was dying trying to make weight and I made the decision to move up to 120lbs. I felt good there, when I moved up I only lost one match between the move to 120 and Districts. My season ended in a heartbreaking loss in the 3/4th match of my Region. Top 3 made it to the state tournament, and I was #4. It broke my heart but I was ready to get back to work; lifting, training and getting right for the next season that was until probably the most significant injury of my career happened when I didn’t realize how much strength I had lost and tried to go back to lifting similar weight to my pre-season strength. Weight gain does NOT equal strength gain. I hurt the soft tissues in my lower back so severely that I was sat from all training from March to June. In June, after multiple months of physical therapy to build up my core strength and back strength I was finally cleared to start lifting again, but no wrestling still, which broke my heart because I had quit baseball that year to focus on wrestling and basically couldn’t do anything at all.

As I said injuries always have a positive and a negative. Let’s start with the negative I experienced here. For a long time I really was in my own head, I had thoughts of just quitting entirely. I figured for sure that I was set back and would never be able to do what I had set out to do now. The injury became a limiting factor, I didn’t even go watch practices because I was so frustrated. I almost did everything I could to ignore wrestling’s existence. It was tough, no one could really get through to me, until my then girlfriend now Fiancé’s club soccer coach let me start coming to their practices to goof off and run around like an idiot. Running around and playing a sport I didn’t really play led to me clearing my mind, but also proving to myself that I was healthier than I thought. I realized my injury wasn’t limiting me anymore, but my MIND was. So I decided to flip the script. To stop worrying about being injured and to start focusing on doing all I could to progress forward. This is where the positives start.

The summer came and I was excited because late June was when I would be cleared to wrestle again. I finally had that fire relit in my belly to go out and train hard, and get back to competing. The first wrestling I did was the Penn State Team Camp. This camp is what revamped how I viewed injuries but also what really proved to me that my injury didn’t destroy me, it shaped me. My first live match in 4 months I tech falled my opponent. I was exhausted but I realized that I was still the same wrestler I was before my injury, maybe better because the injury gave me time to reset bad habits. My 2nd match back was against a NY State placer and future National Qualifier at Hofstra Vinny Vespa. I lost 2-0 and after that match even in a loss had a lot of confidence to realize that I was still right there with some really good wrestlers. But it was the next match that really pushed me through the rest of camp and that year. I wrestled a 2x Ohio High School State Champion, future 3xer, in a really tough match. After the match his coach came over to me and asked how I had done in states, when I told him I had never placed he was shocked. This meant more to me than if I had won the match to be honest, because if this is where I was at with being forced to take several months off, imagine where I would be when I was training consistently! After this camp I was more motivated than ever to right my ship and get back to where I belonged. I was lifting 6 days a week, eating well to gain weight, and training 3-4 days per week. I always reminded myself that my injury gave me a much needed break but that the fire had been relit and was burning brighter than ever now! I was beyond excited as I trained though Summer and Fall for my Senior season, that was until December of that season when I suffered one of two hand injuries I would have that season.

After winning my first tournament of the year we then had our Christmas Tourney. I lost to one of my club teammates in the finals after wrestling a couple really tough matches. Upset with my performance and not wanting to miss an opportunity to get right I went to club practice that Sunday. Because of that loss, which would’ve been my 100th win I was extra motivated to practice even though we had to wrestle again two days later on Tuesday. That practice, that Sunday, I broke the fourth metacarpal in my left hand, it’s the bone that goes up into your ring finger in your palm. I knew I hurt it that practice, I just didn’t know how bad. It didn’t swell or anything so I figured maybe it was nothing major. But after practice Monday my trainer told me it was likely a boxer fracture. But I wasn’t going to miss time my senior year, especially not when my 100th career win, a huge milestone, was right in front of me. So I wrestled the two duals that Tuesday. I won and got my 100th win, but then my hand had completely broken. This is what it looked like the next day:

My coach asked me if I would wrestle the second dual against perennial NJ powerhouse Paulsboro. I agreed with a little bit of protest but I figured hell I already wrestled one match with a broken hand! So I wrestled, and I lost. It stung a lot for a few reasons. I had just got my 100th win, I should’ve been happy but I also had broken my hand and knew that wasn’t going to be fun to deal with, but also to end that night on a loss left a bad taste, one that would motivate me for the next few weeks until we wrestled Paulsboro again in the playoffs, but I’ll get to that. Let’s talk about how the injury went, the doctor at Urgent Care tried to tell me I was out 6-8 Weeks, effectively ending my season. I got a second opinion from an Orthopedic surgeon who gave me a brace to wrestle in and cleared me to go back that week. I didn’t miss a single match due to the injury, but I did wrestle for 3 weeks with a club for a hand, I didn’t lose a match in that span either! This is where I started viewing this injury as a blessing, I was beating kids decisively with one hand basically, just wait until I had two again! And when I got my hand back, I was right, I was a new level. For the two weeks I had both hands again, I was destroying everyone, including avenging my loss to the Paulsboro kid, who I beat by a tune of 9-2 where I had him on his back in the first 30 seconds.

But that didn’t last very long, then came hand injury number two. The Tuesday before Districts, New Jersey’s first round for Individual States, I tore the tendon in my right thumb during practice. I couldn’t bend my thumb past my pointer finger on my dominate hand. My grip was that of an infant when I tried to squeeze. This injury is I feel where I just stopped viewing injuries as a negative and purely made this into one that motivated me to not crumble to my situation but to rise above and overcome it. I wrestled Districts, Regions, States, and a National Championship tourney without my thumb, and without taping it. This injury did hamper me in some ways but to be honest I felt like it made me wrestle even better, having to think smarter and wrestle to the strengths I had took me to a new level. I failed to place in States on my first and final try and I didn’t place in FloNationals either but this injury changed my life. My refusal to tape it or be sat out because of this injury made me realize how mentally tough I could be. In wrestling if you’re taped 90% of the time your opponent will attack it, but guys grab thumbs illegally all the time. I dealt with that and the pain each and every match but to this day I resolve that my injury, and my willingness to persevere through it are the reason I was able to wrestle at Penn State. As I said before, all injuries have positive and negatives. The negative here was I required a surgical repair of my thumb, to be pinned and splinted for 6 weeks and then do another 6 weeks of PT, but the positive was that my future PSU Coach, Coach Cody Sanderson (Cael’s older brother) got to see me wrestle at FloNationals, and then once my competition was done, we were set to chat. This is where I think my injury became the reason I was able to wrestle at Penn State. Coach Cody saw me with my brace on my thumb and asked what happened, and I explained that I tore the tendon in my thumb. Coach Cody looked confused, and said: “And you’re still wrestling? My brother did that, he had to have surgery to fix it.” I replied, “So do I, but I wanted to wrestle here first and then get the surgery.” He never confirmed it despite me asking a dozen times but I’m fairly certain that that’s a large reason why I was able to get on the team. This injury that could’ve ended my season, that could’ve made me think so many dark thoughts, that limited my abilities in some ways, CHANGED MY LIFE! If I didn’t have that reformed positive outlook on injuries I never would’ve wrestled for Penn State, I wouldn’t be where I am today! Like I said, there’s two types of pain, mental and physical. The beautiful part of mental pain is that we can control that much more than physical pain, which brings me into the first of the Five Points for how to handle the mental aspects of injuries, Reframe your mindset about the injury.

Reframe your Mind; Adversity is a Blessing

Now don’t get me wrong, I am fully aware of how much it sucks to be hurt as an athlete. There are many things that come with an injury; time off from your sport, dealing with doctors, physical therapists and other medical professionals. Probably the most daunting task any athlete faces during an injury is fighting with their mind. The human mind is one of the most powerful forces on Earth. It’s the human mind that has built empires, sent mankind to the Moon, and allows us to do so much more! It is also the human mind that cripples us at times, something so powerful is often very tricky to deal with. That is why the first step and possibly one of the most important steps in facing down an injury as an athlete is to reframe your mind almost immediately. This injury isn’t anything more than a road bump in the journey of life, when you view injuries as a challenge that you are meant to rise above versus a setback that you’re powerless to stop, it changes the entire situation. Perspective is truly everything in life.

There’s a powerful exercise to show just how powerful perspective is, if you stick out your arm and make a thumbs up, focus first on your thumb. You will only see your thumb, your vision will blur everything else but what you choose to focus on. However, change this and ignore your thumb and look past at everything else that is in front of you and you will ignore the smaller part of the picture. This is a great metaphor for perspective because what you choose to look at determines what is important. If you focus on the small detail, like an injury, you miss everything else that matters. But if you focus on what’s in front of you, the small stuff doesn’t have the same power anymore!

When we get injured we are quick to focus on what we CAN’T do, our minds are inherently negative, via our fight or flight response, so we jump to worst case scenario. It takes a lot of work to focus on what we CAN do, which is generally much more than we lead ourselves to believe. That is why when you get hurt, or your athlete gets hurt, it is probably most important to get them to reframe how they choose to perceive the injury. One book I recommend for any athlete who is injured or just simple unable to do their sport for whatever reason is; The Obstacle is The Way by Ryan Holiday it is a great book that focuses on viewing challenges and trials as ways to improve ourselves rather than something to stop us. It is based on age old principles that have been used throughout human history to focus on what we can control and how to use challenges to improve. The best teacher in life is failure after all! Whenever I face a setback I often think of a bow and arrow, in order to shoot the arrow FORWARD you must first draw it BACK, the further back it goes the further forward it will shoot!

In order to reframe your mind about an injury you must first take a few actions to get your mind to change from it’s initial reaction. First, you must commit yourself to believing that the injury is not a negative. Diamonds are forged under massive heat and pressure, not in the sunshine. An injury takes away some opportunities but it yields a multitude of others as well! Second, you need to give yourself productive actions to take to replace any free time you get from the injury, “an idle man’s brain is the Devil’s workshop.” When your mind has nothing to do it will find ways to undermine you. One thing I recommend is using the limitless resources you have at your disposal. YouTube videos can provide a lot of information, books are great, perhaps one of the best things an injured athlete can do is help coach a younger age group to the best of their ability. Third, Find someone to support you through the injury. What you don’t ever want to do as an athlete or parent of an injured athlete is to shut people out when you’re injured. An injury is a tough time so don’t do it alone, when you focus on friends and support they can help you realize that an injury isn’t the end of the world, just a stone in the path. Your support network is important as an athlete period but especially during a hardship.

If you can succeed in reframing the way you view your injury than you can take advantage of the opportunities it presents! Injuries are going to happen, it is a matter of when, not if. But one thing I want to say is that if you can choose your response, and find what GOOD can come from the injury rather than dwell on the negative you will come back stronger.

Dealing with the Injury in a Positive Way

As I previously mentioned a key to dealing with injuries is reframing your mindset first and foremost but there are a few other methods that I’ve seen and used during my own career that I find to be very impactful on aiding the recovery process. Typically whenever your habits are disrupted the best course of action is to fill the gap with another productive habit. You need to avoid the pitfalls and negative thoughts, which we will discuss next. Let me get started with one of my favorite methods of productively dealing with an injury or idleness.

Audiobooks are one of my favorite tools during any injury. Depending on the injury there is almost always going to be some time where you are sitting around stuck doing nothing. Audiobooks are a great positive way to fill that gap with productive time, you can idly listen to an audiobook much faster than you can sit down and reed in a random place. You can take an audiobook with you anywhere, it’s hard to read and drive at the same time, but you can listen to a book and drive! I think the reason I was first drawn to audiobooks was in fact an injury my sophomore year of college. I had sprained my knee and was forced to ride a bike rather than wrestle. I had a tournament coming up that I would be wrestling in and had to lose weight somehow. I don’t remember the book but I remember rather than listening to music like I normally would’ve I decided to ride the bike and listen to the book. Fast forward two hours later and I lost a few pounds and learned some awesome stuff! So whether you’re sitting around icing and injury, doing PT exercises, or just generally unable to do anything, audiobooks are a wonderful way to pass the time and still be productive!

Second, and probably right there with audiobooks due to medium is podcasts. Podcasts are like an audiobook in almost every way other than that they typically involve a person or a few people talking with each other. There are probably tens of thousands of podcasts out there on all kinds of topics that are great for any athlete to utilize to keep their mind in a good place during an injury! I won’t really talk at length about this because most of it would be the same as audiobooks!

Third, probably the one I used the most during my various injuries in high school is finding alternative activities or adjacent activities to your sport. When I injured my back and was unable to wrestle or lift I would often go to my now fiance’s club soccer practices and just run around. I could run well still and it kept me in someone decent shape for when I did make my return to wrestling. Prior to my injury I was in very good shape so this alternative activity kept me off the couch and also maintained my fitness level to some degree. I am grateful to her coach for letting me make a fool out of myself because it was a positive experience that kept my mind off of my inability to wrestle.

The second part of this, adjacent activities could include helping to coach younger athletes in your sport while you’re injured. This is what I did after I had surgery my senior year, I helped coach the middle school and youth athletes at my club since I could still watch and do a lot of movements but just couldn’t practice on my own. It was a way to keep my mind and body actively engaged in the sport while also preserving my skillset. The best way to test yourself is to teach. I’ve learned as a coach that any time I have an injured athlete it is good to see about giving them some sort of sense of ownership in the practice to still allow them to feel productive. If a kid gets hurt and can’t do what we’re doing I often try to avoid letting them sit around, I will give them something they can do and be productive, even if it’s stretches or something.

One last piece of advice for finding a way to productively cope with an injury is to do what your body does, strengthen other aspects to counteract the deficit. The Human body is amazing, if someone loses vision the body will amplify the other senses. If you lose a limb your body can often strengthen your other limbs to compensate. When you lose the ability to play a sport you should find ways to add to your skillset as well, maybe not even relating to your sport at all. I know some athletes who used sustained time away from their sport to master a new language, learn how to code, or play chess, there’s a limitless amount of things you can do! But the biggest thing is to make it through an injury unscathed mentally you need to find ways to cope by more than just sitting around and doing nothing. Your body is an amazing piece of technology, it won’t let one thing prevent it from continuing life, neither should you!

“The Idle Mind is the Devil’s Workshop” Avoiding Pitfalls during an Injury

One of the worst parts of an injury often isn’t the physical pain. It’s the mental pain I outlined above. When you are forced out of your sport through something you can’t control, like an injury, your mind will play games with your heart. The physical pain cause discomfort but it’s the mental pain that breaks your heart. Seeing your teammates continue to compete and practice and do what they love, watching all your hard work seemingly be put on pause, and many other negative thoughts that will find their way into your heard enact a heavy toll.

On an average day nearly 60,000 thoughts will pass through your head. A large portion of these will be negative because the human mind is always analyzing and thinking “fight or flight” we naturally look for negative things in our environment. Add in an injury that prevents us from doing something we love and those thoughts get amplified. When your brain can focus on the negative it will. Think about how often you get worried something will go wrong when things are going well? Your mind is prewired to think worst case scenario, so when you’re living it that’s when your mind will feed on it the most! The key to making it through any duration of an injury without having it mentally hurt you as well is to avoid some of the major pitfalls associated with an injury.

First, the very first thought almost every person will have when they get hurt is “Why me?” The answer to this question is that it’s not your fault you got injured. Unless your injury was intended, which very few are, you’re not to blame for something that happened by accident. So don’t put that pressure on yourself, because injuries don’t happen on purpose. Even if you get hurt by an opponent it’s still rarely ever intentional, so you can’t think that you could’ve avoided it if you just did something else. Bad luck is a very real thing in athletics and life, so don’t be hard on yourself and think “Woe is me!” if you get hurt. Almost every athlete will get injured at some point in their career, it might not even be a sports related injury.

Second, one of the biggest pitfalls that come from an injury is overthinking the impact of the injury. The injury will take its toll on a few things depending on severity. Even if it takes a significant portion of time away from your sport it’s still relatively unimportant in the grand scheme of your career. The reason there’s a lot of overthinking when an athlete gets hurt is because there’s a big fear it’s going to set you back. In the time you miss due to an injury you can set yourself back for sure, but if you take productive steps like what I spoke about earlier it can actually be a springboard towards another level. I will talk about that idea next. Don’t overthink your injury, time off isn’t necessarily a bad thing, missing out on even some months of training isn’t going to put you back years, it barely even puts you back that amount of time. Anymore you are seeing high level athletes suffer injuries that people talk about them making a “miraculous” comeback, but it’s mainly that the understanding of injuries has improved a ton. So one major pitfall when you get hurt to really look out for and dodge is don’t overthink it, this won’t be the end, it won’t even slow you down. You will bounce back and you will be better off.

Third and finally, probably one of the biggest pitfalls of getting injured is this. Don’t let the injury shut you down entirely. What I mean by this is that just because you’re hurt doesn’t mean the injury owns you. Don’t let it shut you down completely. A lot of athletes of all ages, youth up to professional often shut themselves off from their teammates, their sport, and the world when they are taken out of play. It is easy to lose sight of our goals when we feel powerless to take steps towards their attainment. One thing I want to say about an injury is that injuries are no different than any other setback. Often times we give injuries more power because they have the ability to physically sideline us, but they don’t control our mental capacity too, though we often let them. Professor Stephan Hawking is perhaps one of the most brilliant minds in human history and he was confined to a wheelchair and inaudible for a large portion of his life. His physical deficiencies may have even led directly to his mental capacity sky rocketing. When you are injured one of the best things you can do is train your mind, or what parts of your physical body you still can!

While you are down due to injury do not let your mind be idle, just because your body is temporarily shut down doesn’t prevent your mind from doing it’s job. Don’t let your fears, doubts, and idleness take control, take preemptive steps to dominate your mind and make it work for you! Which brings me to my fourth point; Let your injuries motivate you, relight your passion and bring you back stronger than before!

The Comeback is ALWAYS Greater than the Setback: Let the Injury Propel you Forward!

There’s an analogy I like to use a lot whenever one of my athletes or even I myself face a set back. Often times the return from a setback feels different, there’s a reason for that. You’re a changed person after any type of setback, a new and improved person. The analogy I like to use here is that in order to forge a sword sharp enough to cut through anything, you must first hammer it and forge it in flames. The sharpest swords are not made from steel that is printed, they are made when the steel is folded, heated, hammered and shaped.

Just like a sword an athlete will be forged in fire! This may come in the form of many things; a tough loss, betrayal of a coach or friend, and perhaps worst of all an injury. If you play a sport at a high level there is almost a 100% certainty that you will be injured at some point. A few fortunate individuals will got their whole career without a serious injury but even they will have bumps and bruises that will sideline them at points. However, it is these setbacks that set the path for our return. When you are injured it is an opportunity, not adversity. You can take time to reframe how you think about the sport, work on your mental game, you can watch tape and learn visually. On top of all this we live in a more connected world than ever before, with knowledge readily available at your fingertips! If you have free time thanks to an injury you should be grateful to it, it reminds you of many things. How much you love your sport, how much you love being around teammates, and how driven you are to come back better than ever. I have seen few athletes who regress after an injury, time away from your sport does something to you, it makes you hungry again like you are when you first start. I have started to name this phenomenon myself.

My name for the hunger you feel to get back into your sport harder than you were training before is Day One Effect. When you first start something that is almost always the most interested you are going to be in it. As humans we have a law of diminishing returns, the more you are around something the less interested you seemingly become. The more something works the less likely you are to want to do it because it’s not new, it’s not FUN. Through the Day One Effect you have the ability to reset yourself. When you come back to your sport you will be a new person again, things will feel like they are not the same as before. It’s a natural progression whenever you’re away from something or someone. Think of it like this, if you have a food you loved as a kid but ate SO MUCH that you hate it now, and you take months or years without eating it the next time you eat it will remind you not of how much you hate it, but how much you loved it! But, there is a caveat here, you need to take tremendous advantage of the Day One Effect when you return to your sport and even beforehand.

When you can’t physically do something you need to prepare yourself mentally. You must absorb information that will make you better when you do come back. Now, not all of this needs to be about your sport, some can be related to another sport, or something fun. I know of athletes who have used video games when injured to help build up reaction time, they play a game and have fun and improve their ability to pick up on quick movements. UFC Great George Saint Pierre began learning more and more about gymnastics so that he could control his body more and build resistances to getting slammed in fights. When he tore his ACL he worked on other aspects of his mind and body throughout his injury and came back a more powerful fighter than before! The key to returning to your sport a whole new animal is to seek that out during your time off from physical training. You must let the injury relight your passion, not snuff it out!

One common theme I see from athletes who suffer recurring injuries is a nosedive in their passion for the sport. I can honestly say that I experienced this firsthand myself. When I was injured and unable to do anything I often had times when I felt like all the previous work was pointless, and that I should just accept being good, not great. However, it was when I came back to the sport and saw just how close I was to the elite guys AFTER months of not training that my passion roared back to life like a fire with gasoline thrown on it. When you are injured one thing you must do is continue to stoke your flames. Now, this comes from many aspects, and as a coach this is also a responsibility we own. Coaches and Athletes must work together to support an athlete through an injury and continue to keep athletes interested and keep the passion alive. If there is an ember a fire can be relit but it’s much easier if you simply keep fueling it slowly over time and never let it go out! Fuel your passion for your sport in any way you can, attend events, coach younger athletes if you’re able, or simply live vicariously through friends and teammates until you are able to return to action, WHATEVER IT TAKES, NEVER LET THE FIRE DIE! This brings me to my last and final point, that injuries are a blessing and they will change your life for the better, if you choose to allow it!

“Out of Adversity Comes Opportunity” – Ben Franklin: Treat Injuries like a Blessing and They Will Be.

In life we are often quick to dwell on the negatives of any situation. We as humans are inherently negative creatures. If you tell us to NOT think about something, we will think about it simply because you told us not to. If we get 5 pieces of positive feedback and one piece of negative we will often dwell on the negative, ignoring the good. It is how we are wired from a very young age. When you first learn to walk if you fall over your parents gasp, and you typically cry. But because you are determined to walk you will often get over it and walk, and once you learn there’s really no unlearning how to walk. The same thing applies with injuries! When you get injured you can often focus so much on what you CAN’T do, that you forget how much you really CAN do. This is where those who want to become elite can really use injuries for what they are, a blessing. Injuries offer you an opportunity to reshape how you think about everything. Some injuries we can still train with, this forces you to adapt your training often building strengths in areas of weakness. If for example you injure your upper body and can’t do much with it, you can still train legs and core. Strengthening the area of your body that often does more of the work in almost every sport is never a bad thing!

Another prime reason why injuries are a blessing is that they FORCE you to take a break. For many high level athletes their sport is predominately their entire life. Injuries force your hand, they mandate that you rest and recover. Athletes who compete or train through the injury rather than listening to their bodies and doctors often pay the price long term. But rest and recovery is never a bad thing. Now, I know athletes who are injured often and it sucks because all they want to do is practice and compete but even this is a blessing. If you are injured often you need to take stock in why that keeps happening, this is your body telling you to adjust your training habits and focus on what can prevent injuries. The best strength coaches I know don’t train for physical strength alone, they train to prevent injury and create mind muscle connections. When you suffer a multitude of injuries it is your body’s way of saying “Change the game plan!” This is not a negative but a blessing.

Another and probably the most important reason to treat any injury like a blessing is because the other option is just plain crappy. If you dwell on what you lost than you will only suffer more. You already experienced physical and mental pain in sustaining and being sidelined due to the injury, don’t allow yourself to continue to suffer over something you can’t change and can’t control. We only control our effort and our attitude and if we choose to focus on what positives we can find in any situation we will see them more and more. “The more I count my blessings, the more blessings appear!” There is an idea called the law of attraction. Thing good things, receive good things, think negative things, receive negative things. The world is what you make of it, especially with regards to adversity in life. So if you choose to view injuries and other setbacks as a lesson or a blessing than you will grow from it. If you sulk in self pity you will often receive less and less pity and more spite. Which brings me to my final reason to view an injury as a blessing. Because others will rally to your cause!

When you are injured and you view it as a blessing and choose to keep pushing forward and stay positive, people will rally themselves behind you and help push you forward! Think of how many professional athletes get hurt and who gets support and who gets hate. The ones who say they are grateful and focus on the positives will garner support from almost everyone. However, the ones who complain and blame the injury for X Y and Z will quickly see those closest to them abandon their support. Prime examples of this are when Alex Smith, then QB for Washington suffered a terrible leg injury. He didn’t complain, he didn’t make excuses he simply kept a great attitude and pushed through an injury and recovery that borderline almost cost him his leg! However, on the flip side you have athletes who use injuries as an excuse for poor performance. Take Lebron James for example, Lebron is considered to be one of the best players of his era but whenever he is hurt he receives almost entirely scorn and criticism because he has a tract record of complaining and using them as justifications for mistakes and losses. He’s not wrong for this entirely but this is an easy way to get support to dwindle.

So when you are injured or your athlete is injured encourage them to only dwell on the positive and the future, hunt progress towards recovery and growth through whatever means you’re able and others will rally to support your cause! If you treat injuries like a lesson to learn from, others will want to see you succeed, they will believe in your cause and you will recover quicker and much more pleasantly. As I mentioned at the start of this article, all that you think you will become. If you believe an injury is the end of you than you will see that quickly become your reality, however if you believe it is a test for you to overcome than you will see growth and progress become your reality. Never fail to see the power in your mindset, mindset is 90% of athletics, physical training is the remaining 10%!


Athletics at the end of the day is one big journey. It is full of fun, memories, and countless accolades. One thing it is also full of is injuries. Athletes at all ages are getting injured regularly and more severely than possibly ever before. Now, this post isn’t about poor training habits that cause much of that, that’s a post for another day! But this post is meant to help any parent, coach, or athlete get into the mindset of how to deal with an injury in productive ways. This is not a perfect guide but this was specially curated in honor of many of my athletes who are dealing with long term injuries, or recurring injuries. I took a lot of time to work on this post because I needed it to be everything it can be for any of my injured athletes. If you are an athlete who is currently experiencing an injury just understand that this is part of the journey! We are all hurt at some point and it impacts each of us in different ways, but use the points and the lessons from this post to help you work through it!

As always it is a tremendous amount of fun to write these posts, I always envision that this may help one person one day and that’s enough for me, but if you enjoyed the post, found it useful or just plain like sharing stuff, please share this with any of your friends, athletes, or coaches! I would be grateful to help any and all I am able from my little slice of this earth. Thank you so much again if you made it this far and please keep any injured athletes you know in contact and in your thoughts, I wish you all a quick and seamless recovery, and am happy to support you in this post!

As always, any feedback is always welcome, if you would like to give feedback, discuss any of my posts, or just ask me any questions feel free to email me at

If you would like to read some of my other Mindset posts here are a couple of my personal favorites:

My Penn State Wrestling Experience

To summarize my Penn State Wrestling experience could take me forever, but to give you brief glimpse only takes a bit! Give this post a read if you want to hear about some of my experiences and lessons learned as a Penn State Student Athlete.

Centurion Mindset: Wrestling is Fun!

Wrestling is a wonderful sport. One that changed my life in many ways. I am grateful to my coaches and teammates who made my career so much fun, in this post I explain why wrestling is and should always be, FUN!

Published by Centurion Wrestling Club

Former D1 Wrestler at Penn State University. Member of Four national championship winning teams.

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