Recovery from athletic injury is never a straightforward process. Injuries are taxing physically, but they also have a clear nutritional and cognitive impact. The latter consideration is, according to an important 2009 study published by the Journal of Sports Health, crucial, with psychological wellbeing an often overlooked yet critical component of any athlete, professional or amateur, returning to their activity of choice. Looking to adapt to these psychological and mental health demands from the first day of recovery can have a hugely beneficial impact on onwards recovery.

Mental wellbeing

Injury can promote a lot of negative feelings in athletes throughout the recovery process. The NCAA list initial thoughts of fear, anger and sadness that can be exacerbated when getting back on the track or field, as the performance takes a significant hit prior to recovery. Extenuating circumstances can worsen these issues; if it’s a competitive sport and there are unresolved issues over the injury, such as if the opposition player went beyond acceptable levels of contact, it can create a feeling of injustice. Legal experts JJS Justice ( cite the need for justice as a primary motivator in these cases: it can provide mental wellbeing. Take steps to get some closure on your injury, and then take up methods like mindfulness, meditation and journaling. This can help you to externalize your thoughts on your injury, and focus on what your recovery requires.

Physical steps

What physical steps you take to your recovery will depend on your injury. This sounds like a simple idea, but it’s very influential in your eventual recovery. Take, for instance, water therapy. Certain injuries benefit hugely from being in the water. These include, according to Dignity Health, sprains, strains and tears. Conversely, if your injury has already passed the stage where light resistance and low-impact therapy will help, your time will be better spent on higher exertion methods such as weight training and running. As always, consult your doctor or physiotherapist, but bear in mind that gentle changes can yield big results.

The importance of food

Nutrition is crucial in all athletic activity, but new science indicates that micro-focused nutrition can have greater impacts on recovery than ever before. According to a 2020 study published in Nutrients, the focus has shifted from the precise impact that vitamins can have on recovery to a more holistic view – including a revisiting of macro-nutrient intake. Perhaps of most importance was the quality of food. This means a move away from bulk protein and carbohydrate and towards the use of high-quality, high-density proteins and nutrition. Taking this approach to your recovery nutrition is more important than focusing on any one wonder supplement or catch-all approach, and will serve you well into the future.

Taking this approach – a positive mental attitude, a finessed approach to therapy, and a holistic view of nutrition – will aid your recovery immeasurably. All of these factors come together into one plan that can provide you with long-term sustainable recovery.