Best Life: Sports Psychology for Rehad

Published: Nov. 15, 2021 at 10:41 AM CST
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FLINT, Mich. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- For an injured athlete, the pain of physical rehab can be grueling. But even when the injury heals, many still face doubt and uncertainty. As Ivanhoe reports, see how one skier is facing her fear.

Annabeth Towarnicky began skiing at three. Started racing in high school. But there were accidents … two of them … bad. The first she broke her left knee, tore the ACL and meniscus, and shattered her shin bone.

“So, it was a really tough injury because it was such a long recovery,” explained Towarnicky.

The second, a year later, devastating. She broke her right knee on the first practice of the season. One doctor advised her never to ski again.

“That to me was probably one of the most heartbreaking sentences I’ve ever heard,” Towarnicky continued.

Undeterred, she did a lot of physical rehab. But she underestimated the mental aspect. Her first time back on the slopes, she froze and began to cry.

“Every moment of me falling in the past was just replaying through my head, and I couldn’t get that out,” shared Towarnicky.

That’s when Towarnicky realized she needed her mind to be as strong as her meniscus.

“So really it’s about regaining trust in the body part that it will hold up, it will do what it did before, and that’s a big impediment for a lot of athletes,” said Tom George, PhD, an assistant clinical professor at University of Michigan.

Towarnicky used psychology to regain her confidence. Working out on a simulator puts her mind in a better place. It pinpoints details you can’t feel on the snow. But there were other tasks. First, she was advised to write a letter to her fear. Then, tear it up. She also accepted that there is risk in everything you do. Finally, she began to use imagery. Visualizing all the joy heading down a hill. For now, she’ll continue to get physically and mentally stronger on the simulator and is looking forward to being back racing on the real snow.

Sports psychology is especially beneficial for athletes who undergo ACL reconstruction surgery. About one third of them never come back to compete afterwards.

Copyright 2021 WMC. All rights reserved.

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