One of the more challenging times as a coach is dealing with an Injured Player. Injuries are a normal part of sport, but for an injured player these times can be very frustrating and can be a time where everything seems to be going wrong. These times for a coach can also be a challenging as the diagnosis and waiting game interrupts the normal functioning of a team. All players within a team have a role and in a coaches eye loosing even one player can have a dramatic impact on a team’s overall performance.
During this time, it is important to have good guidelines for dealing with this situation so the injured player, team and coach are limited by the effects of the injury as little as possible.
For professional teams a situation like having an injured player is more straight forward, as teams will have their own Team Doctor, Team Physiotherapist and Strength and Conditioning Coach. These individuals will work together to achieve the best possible outcome for the injured player first and foremost, but as a by-product of these actions the communication that sometimes is missing within amateur or semi-professional teams is filled by constant reports, balances and checks.
When working within the amateur or semi-professional landscape of sports it is very important to outline expectations early to players and the team as a whole when dealing with injuries. This should try to alleviate any potential foreseeable problems by discussing issues such as these early will help later in times of need.
One of the first aspects that need to be discussed with the team and injured players is the initial communication of what is going on. All too often players will avoid passing on bad news to a coach because they fear some sort of reprisal or negative atmosphere. It is important as a coach to stress this is not the case, but rather the situation is a high priority due to the nature of the teams operations. For example planning line-ups, defensive match-ups, and rotations is dependent on knowing who is available. The coach must make an effort to assure the player that injuries are part of the nature of sport and are not the players fault.
Secondly, the management of the injured players becomes the next point of focus. Many players will not have been in a situation where the management of an significant injury is important. Most players will be aware of basic first aid, but outside of this, payers might not be mindful of the coach’s expectations with regards to injury management. Appointments with Doctors, Specialists, Rehabilitation Experts, and Physiotherapists are all points that need to be discussed with players. These appointments are a must and not a last option if things just do not work out after some rest and relaxation. The earlier these professionals are engaged often the better and more rapid the results of treatment.
It should be expected that players provide regular updates to a coach. At least once a week information in regards to a players condition, even if there is notable change should be discussed with the Head Coach. This provides an opportunity for dialogue specific to the injured player between the coach and the athlete. This has a number of benefits for both parties and again opens the channels of communication, which can only be a good thing.
Finally, injured players should be aware of the need to always gain clearance once the rehabilitation phase has concluded in regards to an injury. Depending on the severity of the injury, this may be a clearance from the players General Practitioner, Specialist Doctor, or Physiotherapist. Whoever provides the most acute treatment is the person who the clearance must be obtained from. For example if the injured player received treatment from a Specialist Doctor, then this person should be the one to provide the clearance to play, not for example the physiotherapist.
Injured players not only suffer from a physical problem or condition, but also suffer mentally from not being able to take part in training sessions, games and sometimes other aspects of the teams activities due to the physical nature of sport. It is important to find roles for injured players and make additional efforts to include and seek contribution from players while undertaking rehabilitation. There is no more important resource to a team then its individuals…