The Impact of Athletic Injuries on Student-Athletes’ Lives

Bad luck can change the future of a student-athlete within a moment. Not only does an injury alter an athlete’s physical health, but it can also cause athletes to feel disconnected from the rest of their team, damaging their mental well-being as well. 

Alana Diaz, a third-year psychology major and player on Point Loma Nazarene University’s women’s soccer team, tore her ACL, MCL and meniscus in her right knee this past fall season. So far, she is three and a half months into a nine-month recovery. 

Diaz said that thinking of herself as an injured player was a “big reality check” for her because it was her first time ever being injured in the 17 years she has been playing. Even though she attends practices and weight training with the team, being an injured reserve (IR) player feels different than being a healthy member on the team. 

“Sometimes watching practice is a lot harder than I imagined it to be,” said Diaz. 

Another student-athlete at PLNU, a third-year on the volleyball team who wished to remain anonymous for medical privacy, recently experienced the disconnectedness an injury can bring. 

“When you are out due to injury, you really feel disconnected from your peers. It made me feel distant and not close to those around me,” they said. 

This athlete explained that the sport they play is a lot of their identity, and when they were unable to play, they felt as though they were “not worthy.” 

Abby Schmidt, a third-year marketing major and teammate to Diaz, also expressed feeling separated from her team during her injury. Schmidt had surgery on her ankle at the beginning of last fall season and was out for seven months. Even though she attended every practice and game, she said her mental health declined. 

“I was definitely struggling more mentally. … There’s a certain type of bond that can only be found when playing together,” Schmidt said. “Sometimes, when your team wins, it doesn’t really feel like you deserve it because you didn’t contribute in the same way that you normally do.”

To stay engaged with the team, injured athletes attend games and practices with the rest of the team. The volleyball player said that the ability for them to attend practice with their teammates and eventually begin lifting weights with them helped them physically heal but also allowed them to “spend time and deepen connections” with them. 

Besides teammates, many others step in to help student-athletes recover and cope with their injuries. Diaz said since the first moment of her injury she has felt “surrounded by love and care by family, friends, coaches and even professors here at Loma.” Her roommates especially were there for her to lean on. 

“[They] were always willing to help out in any way possible and it truly made my recovery 100% easier,” Diaz said.

Schmidt said she received support from athletic trainers on campus who created rehabilitation programs for her, and she also saw a counselor on campus at the time of her injury. 

Diaz and Schmidt confirmed that staying connected with their team is part of a personal mentality. No matter how much your coaches or teammates try to keep you involved, it will not feel completely the same. 

“It’s not the same. You have to change your mindset and find new ways to contribute,” said Schmidt. 

Diaz said, “I do believe that God has a plan for everyone. Although this is not the ideal situation, I realize this is something I cannot change but rather I can decide how I approach these next nine months.”

Written By: Maddy Tucker