It all happened during an unsuspecting sunny afternoon. A casual soccer game, a careless pivot and my knee gave in with the ominous thud of a hundred doors (each representing a possible future) slamming shut at that very moment.

Lying there on the soccer pitch, the realization of this curtailed future hurt more than the injured knee.

When injury affects more than just your body

We’re all too familiar with this picture; if it didn’t happen to us personally, it sure happened to a friend, relative or someone we know. What most of us are probably not aware of (at least not consciously) is that a physical injury affects more than our sports life.

An Urban basketball player has fallen and injured himself during a game, his teammate is checking to see if he is ok. injury, defeat, basketball, team, caring, GamePlan A
An unexpected injury doesn’t mean lying down in defeat. Get back up and face the challenge head on. ©Franziska & Tom Werner/Getty Images

A recent study at Arizona State University (ASU) has shown that social-emotional intelligence and the speed at which we solve various mental tasks seems to be directly influenced by the amount of physical activity we perform during our daily routines. It is no surprise then that an incapacitating event has the potential to affect the core of our identity: confidence, social-emotional life and even our ability to solve problems in the real world.

Recovery for the mind

While most recovery techniques focus on ‘getting us back on our feet’ from a primarily physical point of view, very little energy is spent on reverting the social-emotional and cognitive impact of lack of activity.

So what can we do to change this?

1. Move

Run if you can, walk if you can’t but get those gears moving. As your body moves, so does your brain and your confidence and trust will follow.

2. Compensate

If competitive basketball was your thing (but you can’t do it for a while) run or lift some weights, or do whatever you can do safely. The sense of achievement in a completely foreign sport will have the same effect on your social/emotional self as if you were still doing your preferred sport. In the long run it may even give you a super-compensatory boost (after all you achieved some level of proficiency and performance in a totally new sport and that’s not a small feat).

A man looks out into the distance on top of a mountain. reflection, achievement, outdoors, hiking
An injury doesn’t mean staying still and staying in, it can give you a new perspective on life. Why not take this time to do some self-reflection and indulge in more moderate activities.

3. Get your team game on

Preliminary results from an ongoing study at ASU have shown that team sports have a compounding effect when it comes to social-emotional wellbeing. Not only will you benefit from physical activity but being surrounded by your teammates and having to achieve a common goal will add to those benefits.

Personal experience and science gives us an idea and while your journey might be different than mine one fundamental thing is true: actively taking charge of your future can’t be worse than complacency.

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