I recently got a concussion. No symptoms anymore but I find myself playing cautiously. How do I overcome that? Heads Up, age 15 (male, soccer and basketball)
Dear Heads Up,
Unfortunately this is very common. Your body is probably holding onto the memory of the concussion and some of the anxiety that came with it. Ack! That can be rough!!
Before any drills or game play, your doctor needs to clear you for those activities. Be sure you are cleared for each activity at each level of play.
Once you are given the OK, there are some things you can do to gradually regain your confidence. It might sound crazy, but you can lower your fear by talking to yourself. Before each of your practices and games, take 5-10 minutes alone in a quiet space. In your mind (or out loud) sooth yourself by saying things like:
“I’ve been 100% cleared for this activity. Over the last six weeks, my body has been healing and it’s time to play basketball again. I’ll use common sense; I’ll avoid risky situations, but it’s OK to play with intensity. Small bumps and quick movements will not produce another concussion.” Personalize this to your specific situation. Write it down, keep it with you and repeat often.
Inevitably though, you will be bumped or jostled again. Here’s where proactive self talk really pays off. When it happens (even in the heat of the action), bring yourself back to that soothing self talk. Tell yourself that you are safe and no physical damage has been done. It takes a fair amount of force to produce a concussion, and the small bumps of your sport are not enough to re-injure you.
Your family deserves to be in the loop. They might also be “playing cautiously” as you return to sport. Be sure to tell them about your self talk and how it makes you feel. You don’t need to be embarrassed. Positive self talk is something the best players do all the time. It could be a whole new way for you to improve on the court and off!