The pressure put on our youth athletes at times is overwhelming. Many times it is the coaches and parents who are looked down upon when it is talked about. Though they are not the only ones who are guilty.
When dealing with young injured athletes, we need to remember as health care professionals that we are not only just treating the injured part. Yes we have to look at the whole physical body. Is there an imbalance that predisposed them to this injury, are they performing a skill improperly that caused this injury? But what about the mind?
During rehab we take over the role of coach in some ways. Giving the athlete tasks to complete each day, teaching them proper technique for an exercise, encouraging them to push that little bit more to get better. We set goals that need to be reached to get that athlete back to sport. How does this differ from those parents and coaches who push their young athletes to get better, compete harder?
What we need to remember is that we consider the whole athlete - the physical, mental, emotional and social. Just getting them ready physically to return does not mean we have treated the injury properly. We need to consider are they ready mentally? Are they scared to re-injure? Do they feel left out of their team or class because they are not playing or practicing? Are they pushing themselves so hard that they are not healing properly, worried they are going to lose their spot? We as health care practitioners need to notice these things. Talk to your young athletes and develop that relationship with them so that you notice these things or they feel comfortable enough to tell you.
Being injured can be very traumatic for any athlete especially our youth ones. All athletes feel pressure to return, many before they are ready to do so. As the health care practitioner we need to ensure we are not adding to this pressure but helping them deal with it by treating not only physical but the mental and emotional as well.