How Coaches Can Help Support High School Athletes Recovering From Injury

Between 2010 and 2016, sports injuries among the youth (aged 5-24) accounted for 2.7 million emergency room visits annually, per a report from the National Center for Health Statistics. Popular high school sports, such as basketball, football, soccer, and baseball, accounted for most injuries among teenagers aged 15 to 19. Though coaches can take measures to keep every player safe, no sport is ever completely risk-free.

It is therefore important for high school coaches to understand how to respond to injuries that occur within their team. Aside from the physical consequences, sports injuries can also negatively impact the mental health of athletes. Young athletes, in particular, may experience frustration, self-esteem problems, or even depression, when their injuries prevent them from participating in an activity they love. Guidance from coaches can help them manage their situation.

Here are a few ways high school coaches can support athletes that are recovering from injuries.

Be Prepared

First and foremost, after an injury occurs, coaches need to make sure that the affected student receives immediate attention. To do so efficiently, coaches need to stay up to date with first-aid practices. Maryville University’s first aid guide for coaches outlines that it helps to have a first aid kit close by at all times. Some important pieces every first aid kit should contain include ace bandage wraps, adhesive bandages, antiseptic wipes, hand sanitizer, sterile gauze pads, and a first aid manual.

Show Empathy

As mentioned, sports injuries can have a significant impact on a teenager’s mental health. Medical resource website Patient explains that physical activity promotes the production of endorphins, which boosts the mood. When injury forces athletes to slow their activities, they might adjust well to the sudden reduction of endorphins. High school athletes, in particular, might also experience feelings of guilt if they cannot contribute to their team. If their sport plays a big role in forming their identity, they might also suffer from self-esteem issues.

Active communication is key. Let your players know that their time on the sidelines is for their own recovery. Make sure that they know that their injury does not detract from their skill as a player. Additionally, it’s best to pay closer attention to injured players, to ensure that you don’t miss any warning signs for depression or mental health decline.

Provide Recovery Guidance

Stay updated on your player’s recovery process. Make sure to learn what recovery goals your player sets with their athletic trainers, physical therapists, and doctors, so you too, can contribute to the process and monitor their progress. Getting recovery updates can also help you determine the right amount of physical workload you can assign.

If possible, you can point your player and their parents or guardians to resources that can help them recover. Telehealth providers can be particularly helpful for students since remote treatment allows more frequent clinic visits while reducing transportation time and costs, as explained by our article entitled ‘Telehealth in Review’. Seeing physical therapists and doctors remotely will allow students to better balance their academics, extracurricular activities, and recovery.

Find Them a New Role

It’s important to find new ways to connect your players with the rest of their team, even if they’re not physically able to participate in the sport. You can assign them a new role, such as a coaching assistant, to keep them involved. Once their condition permits it, you can also allow them to practice, so long as they are under your strict supervision. Positive reinforcement can keep their spirits up.

Sports injuries can be difficult to deal with, especially at a young age. Coaches need to stay connected with their athletes to ensure a smooth and stable recovery process.

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By: Ryanna Jesse

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