How to integrate mental preparation into rehabilitation?

How to integrate mental preparation into rehabilitation?

“You are not treating the injury, you are treating the individual."

By Christiana Bedard Thom


Sports injuries can affect your athletes physiologically and psychologically simultaneously. Each of your athletes has their own way of accepting an injury on the cognitive, emotional and behavioral side, hence the importance, as a sports professional, of breaking away from a purely biomedical vision. As some scientists and practitioners put it: “You are not treating the injury, you are treating the individual.” If you buy into this point of view, it makes sense to incorporate a holistic view of your athletes.

Case study

Magalie, 20, plays basketball for a college team. During a game, she injured her knee. You are one of her sports caregivers and must help her get back to the game. When you meet her, you feel she is reluctant towards rehabilitation treatment. She doesn’t seem to want to fully commit.

What to do?

Even if you offer Magalie a rehabilitation program that meets all of her physical needs, her reluctance and disengagement could affect your intervention. It is essential to take her psychological state into account in order to promote an optimal return in the shortest possible time. The same mental skills that help athletes optimize their performance can play a positive role in rehabilitation. Indeed, studies show that positive psychological states such as motivation and confidence are associated with a faster return to play as well as a greater chance of returning to the previous level of performance. Knowing that physical and psychological recovery does not necessarily occur at the same time, it is important to initiate mental preparedness interventions as soon as it seems necessary.

Mental preparation aims at training mental skills and allows you to learn to create or recreate the ideal psychological state in order to perform optimally.

As a physical activity professional, can I offer this type of intervention?

Yes. You have a great place to teach mental strategies because of your established connection with the athlete.

I hear you, there are several reasons that can limit or even hinder your use of mental strategies such as:

However, it is important to remember that injured athletes can be emotionally vulnerable and that you are a key source of support in their rehabilitation through your strong therapeutic connection.

A simple way to integrate psychological intervention into your practice:

Case study (continued)

During a meeting with Magalie, you decide to open the dialogue. She says she is not seeing any progress and feels discouraged. She tells you that she is afraid of not being able to return to her level of performance. After having normalized her experience, what to do with this new information?

4 effective mental preparation strategies to incorporate into your practice

Several scientific studies show that athletes recover faster after injury if they use certain mental strategies such as:

Case study (continued)

It would therefore be possible:

Depending on your level of comfort, knowledge and experience, you can incorporate mental strategies into your practice or refer your athlete to a mental trainer as needed. The important thing is to make your athlete aware of this sphere of intervention in order to optimize rehabilitation. Know that it is important to refer them to a mental trainer if, despite your interventions, you observe a prolonged detachment as well as a lack of interest in the activities.


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