Coping With The Mental Side of Sports Injuries in Kids

Helping Sports Kids Build Confidence When Injured

When kids experience sports injuries severe enough to keep them from playing or participating, they tend to have fairly dramatic reactions, said Dr. Jorge Gomez, Pediatric Sports Medicine Physician at Texas Children’s Hospital in a podcast interview.

As we’ve said here at the Ultimate Sports Parent in the past, injuries can hurt kids’ confidence. And if their self-image is wrapped up in playing sports, injuries can really hurt them psychologically.

That’s why it’s important to tend to their emotional state after an injury.

“While an older person may have more of a depressed reaction to the situation, a kid is more likely to act out with uncharacteristic anger,” said Gomez.

Kids tend to compartmentalize better than adults do, he says.

“For example, when an adult is in a serious injury situation, they will tend to withdraw and get depressed, whereas children really can only take so much grief at one time. So they will look sad for a while, but eventually, they will appear to be fine, until they fall apart again later, because they aren’t getting over their emotional pain as much as they are successfully avoiding it.”

He stressed that communicating with your sports children is essential to overcoming any mental effects of injury.

Allowing your sports kids space to talk about their feelings will expedite the healing process and make them feel more supported, he says.

“One of the things I tell parents is children need structure. So I encourage parents to keep doing what they have been doing, stick to their routine because children derive a lot of comfort from these things.”

Meanwhile, kids need to focus on the process and understand that healing takes time.

Often, injured kids will get excited about playing again, only to be disappointed that their performance does not match the prior performance level.

“This is natural, and as a sports parent, your job is to temper these overheated expectations,” he said.

While injured athletes are recovering, they should practice mental game strategies, he suggested.

“This is a great way to spend some of your time while recovering – work on relaxation techniques and positive imagery techniques.”

He also stressed working on building up physical strength in areas the athletes hadn’t previously focused on.

“Look at things you weren’t working on. If you’ve got a leg injury, work on your flexibility and upper body strength,” he said.

Feeling stronger both mentally and physically will help boost kids’ confidence when it’s time to start playing or performing again.

Listen to the podcast with Dr. Jorge Gomez here:

*Subscribe to The Sports Psychology Podcast on iTunes
*Subscribe to The Sports Psychology Podcast on Spotify

The Composed Sports Kid

“The Composed Sports Kid” audio and workbook digital download program for young athletes and their parents or coach helps kids cope with frustration and anger in sports. Help your sports kids learn how to manage expectations and let go of mistakes so they can keep their head in the game. 

The Composed Sports Kid system is really two programs in one–one program to train parents and coaches how to help their kids practice composure, and one program that teaches young athletes–ages 6 to 13–how to improve composure, let go of mistakes quickly, have more self-acceptance, and thus enjoy sports more

2 thoughts on “Coping With The Mental Side of Sports Injuries in Kids”

  1. I have a 10yr old who has fully recovered from a knee injury, but now lumps and bends like they still have the injury. It’s all psychological now and is holding them back. What do I do?

  2. Yes, this can be psychological. Be patient for his mental and physical performance to return. He will improve with time as he trusts the injured area.

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