An ACL injury is one of the most serious and common in sports.
About 50 percent of athletes who injure their ACL never return to the sport they love, according to the researchers at the University of North Texas who have launched a new study to improve athletes' confidence and mindset post-ACL surgery.
According to the UNT Center for Sport Psychology and Performance Excellence study, called Return To Sport, physical therapy is standard for post-ACL surgical rehabilitation, though such protocols normally do not address directly athletes' psychological responses to the injury, surgery and recovery.
Researchers say most athletes, at some point during their injury and/or post-surgery, will experience a range of emotional responses, including anxiety, depression, tension, irritability, loss of confidence, and loss of self-esteem.
"An athlete, during that time, has lost a sense of themselves, sometimes of what it is to be an athlete. They're sometimes removed from their teammates and their sport, so a lot of what it mean to be an athlete is no longer there for them," said professor Trent Petrie, director of the Center for Sports Psychology.
Participants in the study will be athletes who are in post-ACL surgery recovery.
They will learn three different psychological interventions – goal-setting, imagery and meditations practices – meant to boost overall psychological well-being as they progress through their recovery and confidence in returning to sport.
"It helps them deal with the moods, better handle the pain more effectively, be more motivated in their physical therapy and be confident, so then when they get back on the field, they feel ready to return to what they were doing beforehand," Petrie said.
Kevin Dillman tore his ACL in practice four weeks ago and is one of the 22 participants in the study.
Part of the study includes a list of goals Dillman keeps on his mirror.
"I keep it on my mirror so I see it everyday, so it's kind of a reminder. It's good to have there. It gives me hope every day," Dillman said.
He's confident he'll return to the field in six to nine months, the typical length of time for rehabilitation from ACL surgery.
Researchers are looking for people from all over North Texas to enroll in the study.
You can find more information here.