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HomeHealth articlespost-injury depressionHow Common Is Post-Injury Depression in Sportspersons?

How Can Sports Injuries Cause Depression?

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6 min read


Sports injuries are devastating and can cause severe depression among athletes. Read the article to know more about sports injuries and depression.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Aneel Kumar

Published At August 23, 2022
Reviewed AtJune 29, 2023


While recovering after an injury is difficult for anybody, it can be particularly difficult for athletes and other physically active individuals. In comparison to the general population, athletes and sports people will experience much more disruption and limitation as a result of a significant injury, with significant consequences for their identity or even their career. It is common for them to experience grief and loss due to a significant injury. If this mental grief is not addressed in time, they might go into severe depression. Depression is also common with repetitive stress injuries.

What Are Repetitive Stress Injuries?

As the name suggests, this injury is caused by repetitive activities on a daily basis like jogging. Tendinitis and bursitis are the most common repetitive stress injuries. It can affect the athletes especially, in the worst manner.

  • Tendinitis - Tendinitis is an inflammation of the tendon, an elastic tissue that connects the muscle and the bone and predominantly affects the male population. It shows signs of red and warm skin, and the rotator's cuff and golfer’s elbow are few examples. Tendinitis can be managed with resting, icing and elevation initially. If it is severe, painkillers will be prescribed and physical therapy will be advised.

  • Bursitis - Bursitis is an inflammation of bursa, a sac-like cavity that provides cushion effect to prevent friction of muscle and bone movements. Bursitis is characterized by redness, pain, tenderness, swelling, and limited movements. Bursitis can be managed the same way as tendinitis. Icing, resting and elevation during the initial stages will work. Later on, painkillers, antibiotics, and steroid injections will work.

To prevent repetitive stress injuries, especially tendinitis and bursitis, adequate warm up has to be done before starting with any activity. Also bands can be tied to reduce stress on the tendon.

What Is Post-injury Depression?

Post-injury depression is associated with an injury and is most prevalent among athletes. This problem can afflict anyone of any age or gender, occurring in any sport. It is common for post-injury depression to go unnoticed, especially among athletes who have not been diagnosed with clinical depression. Some people believe that the athlete is simply going through the emotions of dealing with the injury and that everything will be fine soon.

How Common Is Post-Injury Depression in Sports Persons?

Post-injury depression affects 85 percent of all athletes, and the fear of re-injury prevents them from returning to their pre-injury performance levels in most cases. The occurrence of post-injury depression and how to cope with it as an athlete, as well as how to assist athletes through it, may be reduced if more people were aware of the condition. According to statistics related to most studies, 68 percent of athletes satisfy the criteria for a depressive mood disorder, 21 percent of those athletes did not report any depression symptoms before the injury, and 47 percent of those athletes said that the injury worsened their depression symptoms.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms Related to Depression Post-injury?

Being aware of the indicators of depression as a sportsperson who has had an injury is critical so that you can get care when necessary. It is also critical for teammates, coaches, parents, friends, and other individuals who may be in the athlete's immediate vicinity to be aware of these signals and the athlete. Most of the time, it is difficult for an athlete to confess that they have a problem. Their feelings of failure or being a disappointment to their teammates may be overpowering. On the other hand, these indications and symptoms should not be ignored. The

symptoms of depression can be psychological, physical, or social, which are:

1. Psychological Symptoms:

These include:

  • Insecurities about one's abilities.

  • Feelings of sadness that persist.

  • Irritability.

  • Hopelessness.

  • Guilty feeling.

  • Inability to motivate oneself.

  • Psychological disorders such as anxiety and stress.

  • Loss of sex drive.

  • Suicidal thoughts.

2. Physical Symptoms:

The physical symptoms that are seen can be:

  • Insufficiency of energy.

  • Aches and pains that do not seem to have a cause.

  • Sleep patterns that are disrupted.

  • Changes in the menstrual cycle (in women).

  • Speech and movement should be slow.

  • Appetite changes are expected (usually lowers).

  • The weight reduction that occurs all of a sudden (or occasionally weight gain).

  • Constipation.

3. Social Symptoms:

The commonly seen social symptoms are:

  • Difficulties in family life.

  • Absence of participation in social activities due to poor performance at work.

  • Reduced interest in previously enjoyed hobbies and interests.

What Are the Signs of Depression?

The signs of depression may not be evident in some individuals as most of them try to hide them, so it is difficult to diagnose if they are depressed. But with spending time and close observation, these signs can be seen in individuals even when they themselves fail to recognize them. These signs can be:

  • Fatigue, Illness, Injury, or Failing to Recover: Signs of depression include an increased risk of injury or an increase in illness when the athlete takes time off from training. If athletes attempt to hide the problem, they may begin to see a health expert more frequently, either at their place of employment or outside the workplace. A rise in the number of hospital visits or a failure to recover effectively from day to day with suitable training loads can be symptoms of a mental health problem. Fatigue is also a contributing factor to injuries and illness. Injured or undergoing rehabilitation athletes who are unable to face a higher risk of developing depression than those who are competing. This can make the injury take longer to recover. Thus the athlete must be given special attention during this period.

  • Change in Personality or Habits: In certain circumstances, depression is related to increased levels of violence and aggression. Frustration in athletes can manifest itself in their interactions with themselves, their teammates, or their coaches and indicate a mental health condition. Irritability can manifest itself either inside or outside the workplace. In other circumstances, the athlete may cry more than usual, appear and act flat, or adopt a completely different character. In certain situations, the individual may even engage in self-harm and conceal it with clothing, or they may speak about death or dying. The usual routines of athletes can have an impact on their mood, and increased isolation is usually an indication of depression.

  • Poor Performances: Athletes suffering from mental illness can experience a decline in performance or a change in performance in both competition and training. Tiredness and reduced concentration can affect one's ability to perform specific tasks.

  • Change in Sleeping or Eating Habits: A change in sleeping patterns could involve taking regular naps between workouts and, in some instances, finding a more convenient place to sleep during the day for the athlete. Depression can also be characterized by an increased appearance of exhaustion and a decreased ability to concentrate. Weight loss or increase might be observed when the athlete consumes more calories. All of these factors have an impact on performance in both training and competition.

  • Alcohol Abuse: Drinking habits might change due to depression, and some athletes may begin to drink or increase their consumption excessively and regularly. Athletes may even seek out a secluded location to consume alcohol, but because alcohol has a negative impact on overall performance, this may be a problem during training or competition. The usage of drugs by an athlete might also indicate depression in the athlete. Despite the fact that anti-doping organizations usually detect this, it is possible that the athlete was not tested when the substance was in their system.

How Is Depression Treated?

Depression is typically treated with a combination of medicine, counseling, and self-help techniques. However, the exact combination will depend on the severity of the disorder and the length of time it has been a problem. Mild or short-lived instances of depression may not be treated with antidepressant medication at the start. Instead, the patient may be observed over a period of several weeks, and it may be suggested that they attempt the following:

  • Books about self-improvement.

  • Talking to someone, whether a friend, a family member or a professional counselor, can be beneficial.

  • Exercise has been proved to positively affect one's mood in numerous studies.

  • In more difficult situations, antidepressant medicines are typically recommended in conjunction with counseling or cognitive-behavioral treatment, as is the case in the general population.

Medications for Depression: There are many different types of antidepressants available, and what works well for one person may not work well for someone else at all. They may also cause mild to moderate adverse effects in certain people.

  • Antidepressants require between two and four weeks to begin to work after they are first prescribed to be effective. As a starting point, you should be seen every one to two weeks by either your doctor or a nurse to ensure that everything is working properly with your medicine. They will then be able to deliver any modifications to the medication or dose.

  • If the drug is effective, it should be used continuously for as long as the symptoms remain and for up to six months after the symptoms have disappeared. In the case of persistent depression, the patient may be allowed to remain on the medication indefinitely.

  • SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are the most often prescribed antidepressants (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). In the majority of cases of moderate to severe depression, these medications are utilized as the first line of defense.


It is not uncommon for athletes to experience depression. Sport frequently places excessive demands on participants, and just as a person's physical characteristics change over time, so does their mental health. It is critical to recognize whether someone has a mental disorder such as depression. It is estimated that one in every four people suffers from a mental health condition such as depression or anxiety, making it critical to educate players and coaches about these challenges.

Frequently Asked Questions


How Does a Sports Injury Lead to Depression?

Athletes can become depressed after sports injuries for many reasons. The athlete may associate the ailment with poor performance. Disappointed athletes may become agitated. Rapid changes in core athletic ability can be difficult to adapt to, especially for athletes used to high physical effort.


How Do Sport-Related Injuries Impact Mental Health?

After an injury, people may experience a variety of psychological reactions, including negative affect, mood fluctuations, nervousness about re-injury, depression due to believed inadequacy, overwhelming distress, decreased self-confidence, and unease. An athlete's mental health and recovery might affect their psychological reactions.


Can Sports Induce Depressive Symptoms?

The athletic population may exhibit a higher vulnerability to depression than the general population owing to factors such as injury, involuntary termination of career, goals for performance, and overtraining. In contrast to individuals who do not engage in athletic activities, specific subpopulations of athletes may exhibit a heightened prevalence of depressive symptoms.


Is There a Correlation Between Injury and Emotional Response?

Physical injury and mental health are strongly correlated. Depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may result from a severe injury or persistent illness. The adverse effects of poor mental health can hinder the healing physical injuries or illnesses.


What Is the Impact of Sports Injuries on the Brain?

Low-velocity sports concussions shake the brain and cause symptoms. Concussions are widespread across contact and non-contact athletics. They are diffuse injuries to the brain that produce severe mental state alterations. If the brain moves inside the skull, it can create a concussion, damaging nerve fibers and neurons.


Can Trauma Lead to Mental Disorders?

Injury and mental health are linked. A serious ailment or injury can result in anxiety, depression, and PTSD.
Accidents can damage mental health for many reasons. Injuries and hospitalization can lead to depression or PTSD. The injury's impact on daily life may cause the most psychological problems.
Individuals may have trouble socializing owing to mobility limitations. Someone who loses their job due to an accident may lose their purpose and social contacts.
Some people experience depression due to their life changes and the possibility that they will never fully recover from their injuries.


What Constitutes the Psychological Determinants Underlying Sports-Related Injuries?

Injury-related depression and low self-esteem are common in sports. Individuals may feel identity loss when they cannot engage in team activities while their friends do. Due to wrath, powerlessness, and jealousy, the athlete may suffer psychologically.


Can Depression Result From a Broken Leg?

Long-bone fractures have psychological and social repercussions. Psychological complications, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety, are prevalent following fractures of long bones. Depression is common after an injury and can negatively impact clinical outcomes. In addition, the inability to return to the level of functionality before the fracture may result in depressive symptoms.


What Emotions Are Associated With Sports Injuries?

Various emotional reactions may manifest following an injury:
- Sadness
- Isolation
- Irritation
- An absence of drive or motivation.
- Anger and frustration
- Alterations in the desire to consume food.
- Sleep disruption
- Disengagement


What Are the Strategies for Mental Recovery Following a Sports Injury?

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT is a psychotherapy treatment that assists people to recognize and change damaging or unpleasant thought patterns that affect their behavior and emotions.
Targeted relaxation: Guided imagery relaxes muscles and reduces stress.
Body monitoring is comparable to meditation. It is beneficial to comprehend physical symptoms. It is an internal examination that aids in overcoming anxieties and promoting confidence.


What Form of Injury Causes Brain Damage?

Reasons for Traumatic Brain Injuries:
- Motor vehicle collisions 
- Falls 
- Assault or gunshot injuries 
- Armed conflict or bombing
Causes of Brain Injury That Are Not Related to Physical Trauma:
- Stroke is considered to be the primary cause of death and complications.
- Hypoxia, a prevalent condition, refers to a deficiency in oxygen supply.
- Tumors
- Other diseases, such as cancer.
- Infections or inflammation of the brain.
- Additional infectious diseases.


Can Cranial Trauma Cause Depression?

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) survivors may experience long-term depression or fatigue as depression often shows these indications. A TBI can increase the risk of depression, which has various causes. Depressive symptoms may emerge at any time following a traumatic brain injury. However, depression's adverse symptoms might interfere with daily life.


What Effects Do Head Injuries Have on Mental Health?

The most common mental health problems attributed to a brain injury include clinical depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and a wide range of emotional disturbances.


Which Psychological Factors Influence Athletic Performance?

Performance can be influenced by psychological factors such as concentration, self-confidence, stress management, anxiety, inspiration, cohesion, self-control, and interpersonal skills.


Can the Brain Recover From Depression?

Depression is not characterized by neurodegeneration that is irreversible. Depression is a chronic disorder, so effective management requires protracted treatment protocols. The effects of the stimulus on the brain may be partially reversible, allowing for the potential of brain restoration.
Dr. Aneel Kumar
Dr. Aneel Kumar



post-injury depression
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