By G Rajaraman | Apr 23, 2020, 4:13 PM IST

Nanaki’s View on the Role of Sport Psychologist During Critical Time of an Athlete’s Rehabilitation.

It will be an understatement to say that India missed two of its best sports performers, javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra and gymnast Dipa Karmakar, at the world championships of their respective sport this month. They are on a rehabilitation timeline, recovering from injuries that needed them to undergo surgeries – Neeraj on his right elbow and Dipa on her right knee.

From the distance, their current mindsets are as vastly different as their sports. Neeraj Chopra was reportedly keen to compete in the IAAF World Atheltics Championships in Doha while Dipa Karmakar did not take part in the trials to select the team, aware that her recovery process has remained incomplete. Make no mistake, both want to be on the rebound and in competition.

It is hard to say how much help either has received in terms of training their mind to bounce back stronger from injuries. But it is not surprising that Delhi-based sports psychologist Divya Jain of Fortis Healthcare says only a small percentage of her clients are those seeking psychological support during rehabilitation after an injury and a surgery.

So, what could be going through the minds of top Indian athletes who are in different stages of rehabilitation after surgery? Ideally, it is athletes who provide answer to the questions. Nanaki J Chadha, a former top 10 player on the Indian Golf Union charts and now a sports psychology researcher, says a lot of irrational thoughts can dominate the mind.

“Injuries are a traumatic, unpleasant experience for any athlete. For, an injury impacts an athlete mentally quite a bit. A lot of thoughts can crowd the mind: ‘Will I be able to make a comeback?’, And if I do come back, will my body be the same?’ Such things lead to irritation and frustration, too. Worse, an athlete’s self-esteem and self-confidence can take a dip,” she says.

It ties in with cricketer Sachin Tendulkar’s confession about the time he was out after surgery to mend his tennis elbow. “I wondered if I would be able to play cricket ever again. After the surgery, the doctors had told me that it would take time and I needed to be patient. But like any other sportsperson, I was impatient and wanted to return to action as early as possible,” he had said.

“I went through tough times. I could not sleep at night. I thought my career was over and that I did not have the strength to hit a cricket ball again. All those thoughts started creeping in my mind. I prayed to God: ‘Give me one more chance to play the game. I want to play cricket and I can’t stop’,” Tendulkar had said.

Divya Jain, who is Head – Psychological Services, Fortis Healthcare, says the fear of losing one’s own identity is a significant factor in the mental make-up of an athlete going through lengthy rehabilitation. “Most athletes are known only for their sporting achievements and do not involve themselves in too many other things. They do not have a fall back areas of interest,” she says.