It’s every parent’s nightmare watching your student athlete sustain an injury playing a sport they love. After the panic and relief that your child is ‘ok’ wears off, the reality starts to set in, and you may have feelings of helplessness because you can’t ‘fix’ the situation.
Student athletes account for an estimated 2 million injuries as well as 500,000 doctor visits and 30,000 hospitalizations each year here in the US. Parenting two student athletes through team sports has served as a crash course in injury management, patience, determination, resilience and recovery. Here are ways I’ve learned to help manage this process.
Dealing with a sports injury is complicated. Educate yourself on your athlete’s injury and find the best medical team around who specializes in this particular injury. Research, ask lots of questions of the physicians and physical therapists, and get a second opinion if needed. This will help minimize anxiety surrounding this injury and give you confidence to prepare for this process. Specialized care will also present the best recovery options AND will help prevent re-injury.
Once you have your medical team in place, you can work together to forge a path forward. This may include surgery, physical therapy, and unfortunately time. Your medical team should set expectations and help prepare benchmarks and goals to work towards. If your expectations are clear throughout this process, it can help relieve anxiety and help manage the uncertainty.
Let’s face it, youth sports are not the only thing in life that matters. However, to your student athlete, a serious injury can feel like their world has ended. Yes we have spent hours on the soccer field and thousands of dollars supporting this sport, but the truth is, my role as a parent is to help develop a fully rounded human being.
There are so many other areas to develop with this newly found time. We created a list of goals to work towards that included; pass your driving test (He just passed!!!), complete the confirmation process, volunteer whenever possible, take as many challenging academic classes as you can, to name a few. Student athletes are competitive and goal driven by nature, so creating a list of new goals creates a sense of control and gives your athlete something else to strive for.
Your athlete’s emotions will fluctuate rapidly during this whole process. Be prepared for many mood swings, and be sensitive to your athlete’s concerns and feelings throughout the whole process. Don’t try to ‘fix’ it, just try to listen and validate their emotional journey. Pay particular attention to situations that may indicate a psychological concern, and contact a counselor if needed.
People may wonder why dedicate so much time and money to youth sports, and the answer is simple: They are athletes and they love it. To ask them not to compete would be like asking them to change who they are. I’m trying my hardest to be the mother my athlete needs right now, and I’m learning that a huge part of that is teaching patience, resilience, perseverance, determination and gratitude. All of which are important life skills, regardless of where their sport takes them or doesn’t take them.
After an injury, it’s natural for an athlete to desire a fast recovery. The first thought for most is “When can I return to play?” Trying to rush a recovery and come back before being fully healed could lead to re-injury or a different injury. It simply isn’t worth it. My advice is to listen to your professional team (you won’t always like what they are telling you), follow their rehab plan, and lean into this situation. It’s unfortunate, but from what I understand, there is no magical way back to health.
Injured student athletes may find themselves feeling lost, especially if their injury requires them to stay off the field for a considerable length of time. It’s essential for your student athlete to stay connected to coaches, team mates and other areas of their sport wherever possible. Remaining open and honest with a support network is an important part of the healing process.
I can’t describe the anguish and feelings of helplessness I felt watching my student athlete suffer his injury. However, seeing the maturity, growth, and struggles he has faced, I’m confident he’ll emerge stronger than ever. His physical therapy will address not only the post-surgical recovery, but also will help prevent him being predisposed to future injury. Your future is bright sweet boy!
We are forever indebted to our medical team in London and Los Angeles. Dr. Paul Trikha at the Schoen Clinic, Dr. Allyson Estess at Sports and Spine Orthopaedics, and the team at Isokinetic – London (especially Alessandro), who helped us navigate a truly stressful and upsetting situation. With their medical expertise and care, I hope to have my student athlete back on the field in no time!
“If you do the work you get rewarded. There are no shortcuts in life.” – Michael Jordan
I’m a travel and health writer, digital and brand consultant, breast cancer survivor, and supermom to two active boys! I keep it real and share stories of raising feral wolves teenage boys, family life after a cancer diagnosis, and family travels around the world! Each story is shared with my dry, and sometimes naughty sense of humor.