Do you know someone dealing with injury? There are so many posts out there talking about what NOT to say… so what CAN you say to an injured athlete?
Dealing with Injury: How to Support the Injured Athlete
We all have, or will, be there: in pain, out of commission, feeling like a bump on a log and not as pretty. And we also likely will be in the opposite seat at some point: struggling to find the words to say to a friend who is on the injured reserve and not sure what to do about it.
But as much as you might think, oh, I’ve been there, I will know exactly what to say, the truth is, you might not. You might find your head filled with all the things NOT to say, or you might even find yourself falling victim to saying just those things because you are at a loss! But, just like the art of small chat and surviving sorority rush, having back pocket questions and knowing what to say can make you the star of that person’s day.
What Can You Say to an Injured Athlete?
You absolutely can and should say I’m Sorry, and I’m thinking about you. Seriously, that means a lot. But what do you say after that?
Do you want to talk about the injury?
I lead with this. Don’t do the whole but how are you feeeeeeeeling? Just ask if they want to talk about it. They might tell you they they don’t want to–but I can tell you from personal experience that often we say we don’t want to talk about something, but we really do. Asking if they want to talk about what happened/is happening puts the power in their hands and gives them permission to discuss their injured status, if they so choose.
Even if you are curious, don’t force their hand. You can get the details from the x number of people who forced it out of them.
What do you need help with while you are injured?
Don’t ask “do you” need help with anything… they will likely brush it off or say no. However, chances are that they really do need help with something. This isn’t about special treatment, this is about practicality. Do they need a drive somewhere (particularly to rehab or work)? If they are on crutches, they likely need help with groceries, packages, and such. I can’t really vacuum (heh Alex heh). Do they have a cast that they need help wrapping for showers? Do they have a really itchy back? Can they not rehang the lights that fell off the wall (we have string lights up year round, and yes, they did fall and no, I couldn’t fix them)?
It’s Ok to Feel Overwhelmed.
Saying that it is ok to feel overwhelmed is supportive, soothing, and encouraging, without letting them dwell in sadness or depression. Saying that it is ok to feel overwhelmed acknowledges that there is more than just one facet to what is making them feel so out of control, and maybe even scared. Avoid mentioning timelines and predictions for the future–instead, focus on helping them here and now, or they might get overwhelmed thinking just how far they have to go!
What is a New Goal that You can Set and Work Towards?
You absolutely can encourage them to look to the future, but do so in a way that doesn’t focus on the uncertainties of their injury and recovery. The only certainty you have is that they will be injured for an indefinite time. So what can they accomplish in the interim that they put off while working on the goal that (perhaps) got them injured? For myself, I am having fun with recipes, working on my new coaching business, and doing all the physical therapy that I can so that when I do come back, I am prepped and ready.
Athletes are so active, help them find a new way to channel that activity and energy. I can’t do full sit ups or core twisting (we are putting yoga to the side at the moment), but I can plank the f out of my core. I can work on my ankle stability, my calf strength, and even glute strength with my resistance band.
I may or may not do PT while eating my brownies and typing up workouts.
Do You Have Plans for Tonight/Tomorrow/the Weekend?
Get them out of the house. Don’t give them much leeway. If they can’t walk all that well (cough), make plans to see a movie and make sure that you help them get there. Or, if they are really so immobile as to not be able to get out and about, have dinner and a movie with them at their place. Tell them that you will bring the food. The worst thing that you can do is leave them languishing all alone because they can’t go out to planned events or bars or whatever.
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So now you have no excuse to show up and say, OMG THE SAME THING HAPPENED TO MEEEEEEE. Because, guess what, they likely don’t care 😀 And, trust me, the way that you healed likely won’t be the way that they heal.
Because heal they will. And they will remember how deftly supportive you were during their rough time.
Going through a tough time yourself? Check out my post Staying Positive : Take Lemons, Make Applesauce.
What are some other great prompts to say to injured athletes? I’m not going to lie, offering massages is pretty nice, lol.
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