Injuries are virtually unavoidable for student-athletes. While most can be managed with minimum, short-term disruption, some herald both physical and mental complications – especially head injuries.
Margot Putukian, director of athletic medicine and head team physician at Princeton University, warns that sidelined student-athletes may experience sadness, isolation, irritation, lack of motivation, anger, frustration, change in appetite, sleep disturbance, or disengagement, or abuse drugs or alcohol, especially if his or her identity is tied to excelling physically.
The response may extend from the time of injury through rehab/return to activity. Most can play again, but, for some, a career or reputation may be at stake. Orthopedic injuries usually come with a predictable sequence for recovery, but a concussion could trigger anything from cognitive impairment to paralyzing headaches. In addition, without crutches or a sling, the concussed student-athlete “looks normal,” and may not feel legit about being out of practice or play.
Also, with increasing attention on neurodegenerative diseases, such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) among professional athletes, some concussed student-athletes might fear terrifying outcomes. Putukian emphasizes that student-athletes expressing high anxiety could benefit from mental health support, but may be afraid to reveal their symptoms, or see counseling as a sign of weakness; may be accustomed to working through pain; may have a sense of entitlement and never had to struggle; or may not have developed coping mechanisms to deal with failure. Getting a student-athlete to consider mental health treatment can be challenging, so coaches, athletic trainers and team physicians should share their observations and thoughts about resources for student-athletes, who should be coached to see mental health as important as musculoskeletal health.
– Helen Susan Edelman, LiveSmart Project Director, firstname.lastname@example.org
Times Union - Edited and written by Helen Edelman
LiveSmart supports the Classroom Enrichment Fund at the Community Foundation for the Greater Capital Region and is made possible by donations from St. Peter’s Health Partners and Price Chopper, with promotional services provided by the Times Union and WNYT/NewsChannel 13. LiveSmart is compiled by Helen Susan Edelman, Project Director. This project ensures 70,000 students and teachers in the Capital Region have equal access to news content during the school year.