Can We Learn to Trust Our Body After Injury?

Collaboration between the Ohio Center for Sport Psychology and the Cleveland Clinic's Sports Health Center just released an interested podcast regarding fear of reinjury as a limiting factor for an athlete's return to sport.

They specifically cited the example of an athlete’s return after an ACL injury. They state:

"A significant amount of physical therapy is likely to be involved to regain strength and range of motion. But the athlete's body might not be the only thing that could benefit from treatment. Their thoughts and emotions could need rehabilitation as well." 

Fear of reinjury is nothing new. I think we see this in the clinic all the time with sports and work injuries alike. The mind remembers injury and often, we just never trust that that part of our body can perform like it once did.  

This podcast, released last Friday seemed to be coincidentally timed with a high profile ACL injury. Famed NFL quarterback Carson Palmer of the Arizona Cardinals tore his ACL in Sunday’s game and was carted off the field. His medical workup the following day confirmed he had torn the same ACL he tore back in 2006 and would be out until next July or so.

The podcast mentions the athlete's belief in recovery and their understanding of the process is key to a successful return to sport. I couldn't agree more! 

In the clinic, I think rehabilitation is more than just achieving range of motion and strength. As Physical Therapists, we have an important responsibility to re-educate proprioception (the mind's awareness of the position of the body in space). I think creating this mind-body awareness of where we are in space and how we move is critical to success. 

For an athlete like Carson Palmer who is going through ACL rehabilitation a second time for the same knee, the mental process of recovery seems as important as the physical one. It will be interesting to watch and see how he learns to trust in the stability of his knee.

After all, to return to high level sports and activities, we need to be able to trust our body to react quickly, often in plyometric cutting motions all while maintaining control.

What do you think?

For more information or to hear the podcast, click here