Mentally Recovering from a Sports Injury

When NBA player Shaun Livingston dislocated his patella tendon and tore three of the four major ligaments in his right knee whilst going up for a standard transition layup, his psyche, physical aptitude, and general mental approach to the game would be temporarily altered in the moment, and the foreseeable future. That was in the Spring of 2007.

Since then, Livingston has gone on to finish twice (in consecutive years) as the respectable third runner-up for the NBA’s prestigious ‘Sixth Man of the Year’ award, he has won a championship, and been a key role player for the leagues unprecedented best unit, The Golden State Warriors.

How, though? How did he overcome the tragic injury that had most medical practitioners suggesting immediate amputation and the mental anguish associated with seeing your own leg in the most gruesome state of disconnect imaginable?

Not being able to find a stable state of cerebral existence after an injury incurred while playing a sport can deter an individual from ever participating in the activity again, and can even cause a substantial declination in one’s will to remain physically active.


Regaining the confidence to compete in a sport without the angst stemming from a previously incurred injury is a process that is relative to every person and every injury.

The first, and most important step, is realizing the emotional connection that made that particular sport so irresistibly enjoyable; we all have specific reasons regarding why our vices in life are so instrumental to the wholesomeness of joy we experience, and becoming in touch with the youthful happiness that can be derived from the activity itself is a necessary platform for rebuilding strong mental infrastructure.

That will help the athlete determine the true worth of returning to the sport and whether or not it is an activity they love enough to regain physical form and compete at the top of their game.


The next step is to set aside all existent knowledge regarding injury rehabilitation, and allow the professionals to do their jobs and trusting that they are doing everything they know how to do in a consistent effort to guarantee stable recovery.

When physical therapists, orthopedic surgeons, team doctors, and every other semblance of medical personnel is offering advice, it is usually in the athlete’s benefit to heed warnings and listen to the best of their abilities.

If advice from different credited individuals seems to be contradictory, then it becomes important to sift through the clashing suggestions to find the perfect culmination of applicable guidance. While some doctors and trainers may be distinct leaders in their respective fields, every human body is different, which means that advisory situations between them and the athletes are not linear from situation to situation.

Find what works best and be cognizant when absorbing the words of recovery advice as to which facets and techniques are most useful, then communicate which aspects are not as advantageous so as to create to ultimate individualized rehab program.

Finally, it is important for the athlete to retain the tenacity and competitive edge that makes the game more meaningful. Playing with too much caution and a half-hazard style of approach will only inhibit the athlete from progressing and can even result in another injury if not dealt with upfront.

When Shaun Livingston signed a contract with the Warriors, front office personnel asked the coaches to make him guard the nimblest and most athletic players on the team during practices.

The 6’7’’ Livingston was reportedly tentative at first, not sure whether to trust his recovering limb or not, but after a season of lateral strength training and practices where coaches and teammates, he has regained professional form and turned himself into one of the most respected role players in the League.

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