Injured Psyche

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How does the normal college student handle a bad day?  If they fail a test or get dumped by a girl, what do they do?

Usually, they sleep it off, skip a class and cope with buddies.  What if Matt Barkley dealt with his problems in that manner? 

If he missed a practice, it would make the Los Angeles Times.  The coaches would know all about him ducking out of class.  And in season, the schedule fills up with extra meetings, weight room and film sessions.

"They have a lot more on their plate.  It's a lot more public.  And they have to learn to cope differently and fast," said Dr. Robin Scholefield, USC athletics' resident clinical sports psychologist.
"Most of the issues are the same issues that 18 to 24-year-olds have when they come to college.  The difference is the student-athlete has the equivalent of a full-time job to go with it."

To handle the grind of college athletics, Dr. Scholefield prescribes balance.  "The whole healthy person is the best performer," she said.

Balance also helps bring perspective between the lines, which frees the athlete to perform without internal pressure. 

Perry-Injured.JPG"If all you think you are is a javelin thrower, and then you throw poorly, you create failure for yourself."  

The problems become magnified when student-athletes face long term injury issues.  Thrust outside of the program's daily bubble, they tend to suffer a mental fallout, where they feel detached from their teammates and often skip rehab sessions. 

Dr. Scholefield created an injured players support group at USC, where they can share their experiences with athletes from different sports who can relate.  The psychologists also create a plan of recovery, so the student-athlete understands the medical diagnosis and the timeline going forward.

In the case of career-ending injuries, the treatment is different.

"They usually have a PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) reaction," Dr. Scholefield compared it to a milder version of what soldiers go through.  "They feel like they are losing their primary identity."

Dr. Scholefield recommends student-athletes take three to six months to adjust to the loss and then pushes them to again explore balance and diversity in their lives.

"They all have more gifts.  They just have not had an opportunity to explore them as much as their physical gifts."

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Dr. Scholefield's program and approach seems vital! I think USC has always done a good job of treating the student-athlete as a whole person... as far as I can remember, they've always had a tremendous support staff, including talented psychologists. Anyway, I am glad to have read this post. I'd encourage more "behind the scenes" type of posts. Thanks Jordan!

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