5 Keys for Healthcare Providers When Treating Athletes
Almost every single athlete is under pressure from someone. The good athletes are under pressure from their coaches and parents to keep making them look good. The worst athletes on the team are often under pressure from friends, or from parents to keep being athletes. When treating athletes as a healthcare provider you have to remember these keys.
In my 16 years being an athlete myself, I can’t think of one athlete that did not feel pressure from somewhere. The pressure to be an athlete and perform surrounds athletes at all times.
Now think of your life. Whether in school studying for that big exam, or even where you work right now, how do you respond to stress? I bet you could be in one of those Snicker’s commercials because “you are not you when you are hungry/stress/tired etc…”
Key #1 When Treating Athletes – Acting Out
The reality of life is that an athlete can be acting out not because they are bad but because they don’t know how to deal with the stress. I know I dealt with this in college. Developed poor relationships with my athletic trainers. I felt so much pressure to maintain my scholarship that being injured was not an option.
That pressure made me react irrationally. I did not make me a nicer human; it made me meaner. It made me more selfish because all I wanted was to get that pressure off of me. The only way to do that was to run fast, and I could not run fast if I were hurt. The easy targets become the athletic trainers.
I am not saying that the above is ok by any means. It was unacceptable, and I needed to take responsibility. I’m told this story just to help you remember so when you go to work 100% sure you’re going to lose your job for smacking a kid in the face, you take a deep breath and remember they are under pressure.
Key #2 When Treating Athletes –Athletes Are Scared of Losing
When I say, athletes are afraid of losing you might immediately think that I am speaking about games, matches or race. I am not talking about any of those things though. What I am talking about is LOVE, STATUS, MONEY, SOCIAL LIFE.
These things are much stronger than just losing a game. The problem with being injured is that the irrational thought process can make an athlete feel like they are losing much more than just that game.
It seems like their parents are so happy when they are playing and winning right? What if their parents stop loving them?
They are known around school for being the star athlete. What will they be without that title?
They are working hard to get that scholarship or to keep it, what will they do after that?
Who will they talk to when all their friends are on the team, and they are depressed and don’t feel like talking about sports?
You see how these problems of losing can compound and turn into a different beast? Most of these things will not happen, and you know this. BUT just because you know it does not change the fact that the athlete fears it.
Key #3 When Treating Athletes – Athletes Are Human and Wait Until It is Too Late
Let’s look at weight gain for example. Most people know they are gaining weight, but they do not do anything about it until it is too late or it will be tough to make a change. You do not become 100 pounds overweight without realizing that you are gaining weight.
The question is why do people wait until they are 100 pounds overweight to do something instead of acting when they gain 10 pounds?
If you know the answer to that question, you will know the answer to why athletes wait until it is too late to deal with their injuries.
The reason is that WE ARE HUMAN. We are hardwired to be too optimistic, and we think we are better than we are. They are both cognitive biases that we have.
These two cognitive biases are deadly together. It means that we even when we are gaining weight or an injury is getting worse. We are optimistic that things will turn around without us having to make a change.
The second reason is that we rarely see things in our lives for what they really are. It hurts too much to see the truth so we see ourselves as being better. We think we are better at our jobs than we are, thinking we are more charming than we really are, we believe that we look better than we do and the list can go on and on.
The reality is that athletes will always push themselves to injury and then come to you last minute expecting you to fix a problem they built in a year in one day. That doesn’t mean it is right but it will happen.
Key #4 Athletes Want to Be Liked
We all want to be like to some degree and the people who say they don’t care what others think usually want to be loved even more. The problem is that if an athlete gets any sense that their health care provider does not like them, their behavior will change.
We do this all the time. We like people who like us, and we don’t like individuals who dislike us.
Back in high school days, movies paint this picture for us of the “mean girls” popular kids. The Jocks that are always the bullies but being pretty or athletic are NOT what makes people popular. What made people famous was that they liked more people. Popular people like people so people like them back.
If you have a rocky relationship with an athlete and you feel like their attitude sucks, ask yourself if you ever like them? Did you ever give them a chance to show their best side, or did you dislike them from day 1 and try and act as if you did not?
Key #5 Athletes Are Passionate
Sports are emotional. The fact that people cry after big games proves that. The fact that individuals in the stands cry after big games but the seal of approval on the sealed envelope.
The problem with fixing injuries and health science, in general, is that it is very logical. It is very stepping 1 – 5, do this and then do that. It is black and white a lot of the times. There is not a lot of room for emotion in how the cardiovascular system works.
The issue with emotion is that it ALWAYS clouds our logic. When someone gets cheated on, for example, the next action they take almost always has nothing to do with what logically makes sense. It is an emotional choice that bursts onto the scene, all stemming from pain.
You may be working with an athlete that never does things that make any sense. It does not make them right, but to them, their actions feel good. They may have a harder time fighting through their emotions to get back to some logical thinking.
You have to learn to deal with that and all of the other points made here. Imagine you have an athlete that is emotional, under a lot of pressure from their parents and coaches, they feel like you can’t stand them, and they procrastinated on dealing with their injury. Do you think that they are going to be behaving normally? That is doubtful so just take that into consideration.