How injuries affect the mental health of student-athletes

TRU athlete sheds light on the mental process of overcoming injuries

Jost Hausendorf dribbles through the defence before he was sidelined due to a torn ACL this season. (TRU Athletics)

For student-athletes, injuries, while carefully avoided, are oftentimes a result of going to battle on the field or court. Daily training and high-level competition is taxing on any body type. Ramifications come in various degrees ranging from minor aches and pains to severe trauma that can leave an athlete sidelined for an extended period.

Athletes tend to hold their identities close with playing their sport; when that is stolen, it can leave them feeling defeated. In some cases, this empty feeling leaves athletes to grieve the loss of their ability to play. I wanted to explore the impacts associated with sport-related injuries, so I sat down with Jost Hausendorf, a 22-year-old TRU Men’s Soccer player from Germany.

At 6’3”, Hausendorf’s height and astounding technical skills equipped him with confidence and excitement for the fall 2021 season ahead. Unfortunately, eight minutes into the first game on the Wolfpack grounds, Jost found himself sidelined with a severe tear in his knee ligament. 

The burden of COVID-19 has already impeded athletes from engaging in regular competition for many months. Hausendorf’s unfortunate injury has left him waiting yet another year to be able to play a traditional season.

“I was looking forward to this season for quite a while and it was tough to accept that I would have to wait another year,” Hausendorf regrettably expressed. “The biggest challenge is watching the team perform while not being able to help.”

With teamwork being such a major theme in sports, it is easy to imagine the personal challenges associated with not being able to contribute. To combat this, Hausendorf continues to spend as much time as possible with the team and remains engaged with the department. He ensures to show up to practice, team meetings, workouts, and fundraisers to boost morale and keep those team bonds tight. Hausendorf explained, “Keeping busy is another good way of coping with injury. I have been focusing on work and future projects off the field, which helps with holding up my self-esteem.”

Haussendorf relates the situation to a roller coaster of emotions. Coming to terms with the degree of control he holds over his ill-fated injury has enlightened him in some ways. “It is necessary to accept we cannot control everything, and I don’t think that should be considered a bad thing,” he expressed to me. Haussendorf realized that even when you put in the work and do your due diligence to prevent injuries, sometimes sheer chance or luck subdues your expectations.

With that being said, Haussendorf plans to come back stronger next year. “I really thrive on the idea of next season. I am confident about my discipline in terms of rehab, and I believe in my goals to exceed my prior level of physicality and soccer ability,” he proudly remarked.

Haussendorf teaches a valuable lesson in overcoming adversity and fighting for mental strength. The connection between identity and sport can cause athletes to slip into depression when that relationship is severed by an injury. Haussendorf reminds us to give grace to our bodies and allow healing to take place both mentally and physically.