Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a reactive emotional and behavioral state that is triggered in response to a traumatic experience. This condition greatly impacts a player’s ability to function. PTSD is often accompanied by insomnia, nightmares, flashbacks, or physiological arousal (such as increased heart rate, blood pressure, sweating, etc.).

For very serious injuries or traumatic experiences, untreated PTSD may significantly impair one’s ability to return to functioning within an anticipated timeframe. PTSD is typically managed with a combination of medications and counseling.

Emotions seen with PTSD range from:

  • Fear
  • Anxiety or nervousness
  • Panic
  • Anger
  • Depression
  • Sense of detachment

Behaviors seen with PTSD range from:

  • Avoidance (of certain places or people)
  • Isolation
  • Agitation
  • Recklessness
  • Hyper vigilance (being overly attentive or suspicious)

Case Example

A player suffers a serious injury during a game and falls to the ground in pain and disbelief. This experience immediately (or within a short time) triggers a sense of “shock”. This, in turn, leads to the player’s mind and body becoming “hyper”-sensitive to any cues associated with that injury (sights, sounds, smells, people, etc.). As time passes, a range of emotions are triggered anytime the player is confronted with a reminder of the event (such as seeing a certain jersey color, hearing a whistle or crowd, the smell of the grass). Because the symptoms are severe, the player starts to display certain behaviors in response to the emotions he has (for example, agitation because of anger) and/or exhibits other behaviors to avoid triggering the emotions from getting worse (for example, isolation to minimize anxiety). Ultimately, the player begins to avoid the training facility and resist practices which delays rehab and prolongs his return to play.

For more information about PTSD, visit the National Institutes of Mental Health website.

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