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  • Writer's pictureAlyssa Zajdel, PhD

Why Do Athletes Compare Injuries and What Can You Do About It?

I was at the ice rink and one of my figure skating coach’s other students was talking about how her injury was acting up. I joined in the conversation by joking that my coach had so many injured athletes (because I am also currently injured right now). The skater responded, “yeah, but my injury has been happening since 2020.” To which I responded, “mine has been since 2016” (I guess it helps being at least 10 years older than this skater!).


This got me thinking about comparison – why do we need validation for our injury journey? Why does it feel like one person’s injury journey is more important than others?




Here are some reasons why athletes compare injuries:


Learning Benchmarks for Recovery

Athletes often compare injuries to establish benchmarks for recovery. Knowing how others have navigated similar injuries can offer insights into expected timelines, rehabilitation strategies, and potential challenges.


Seeking Support and Understanding

Comparing injuries can be a way for athletes to seek support and understanding from their peers. Sharing experiences fosters a sense of camaraderie and can alleviate the isolation that often accompanies injury.


Normalizing the Experience

By comparing injuries, athletes can normalize the experience. Knowing that others have faced and overcome similar challenges can reduce feelings of frustration and helplessness.


Working Through Performance Anxiety

Athletes might compare injuries due to performance anxiety. Concerns about the impact of an injury on future performance can drive a desire to understand how others have managed similar setbacks.




When you notice yourself comparing to others about your injury, do the following:


Prioritize an Individualized Approach

Recognize that each athlete's body and circumstances are unique. While comparing injuries can provide insights, it's crucial to approach recovery with an individualized mindset. What works for one person may not necessarily be the best path for another.


Consult with Healthcare Professionals

When dealing with an injury, consult with healthcare professionals for personalized advice. A sports medicine specialist or physical therapist can provide tailored recommendations based on your specific injury, fitness level, and overall health.


Focus on Your Journey

Stay focused on your own recovery journey. While it's natural to seek guidance from others, avoid getting caught up in constant comparisons. Your progress is unique to you, and concentrating on your rehabilitation plan is paramount.


Positive Support Systems

Surround yourself with a positive support system. Engage with teammates, friends, and professionals who uplift and encourage your recovery rather than fostering an environment of constant comparison.


Mindfulness and Patience

Practice mindfulness and patience throughout your recovery. Understand that healing takes time, and comparing your progress to others may not accurately reflect your individual path to recovery.


Celebrate Small Wins

Celebrate your small victories. Whether it's regaining flexibility, increasing strength, or achieving a specific milestone in your rehabilitation, acknowledge and celebrate these achievements as markers of your unique recovery journey.


Validate Others

Everyone who has an injury struggles in some way, regardless of the severity of the injury. Even if someone has a less severe injury than you do, show your support by recognizing that their struggles are also valid (and do not take away from your struggles!)


In conclusion, while comparing injuries is a common practice among athletes, it's essential to approach it with mindfulness and an individualized perspective. Embrace the support of your peers, seek professional guidance, and focus on your personal path to recovery. Remember, your journey is uniquely yours, and each step forward is a victory worth celebrating.

Have you noticed yourself comparing your injury to others and want to focus on individualizing your mental skills for healing?


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