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Athletes Rehab with Social Media

Athletes Rehab with Social Media

Posted by 

3/12/2019

A lot has changed since the advent of social media, and professional athletes have begun to use the technology in a variety of different ways to connect with their followers. Social media allows prominent athletes to keep their followers up to date on many things in their lives and careers, and that includes how they are recovering from injury or a medical related issue that has kept them out of action for a considerable period of time.

Social Media Platform: Show & Tell

In fact, some athletes today get quite detailed as it relates to the actual rehabilitation process they are going through and use the social media platform to share treatments and timelines for their return to the athletic field. Chances are good we’ll see more of this as time goes by as more athletes find it a great way to document their recoveries from injuries or to share other information about their lives both on and off the field.

Injuries in athletics, especially at the professional level, are certainly nothing new. Although contact sports such as football provide a greater risk of injury due to the more violent and physical nature of the sport, athletes in all sports are at risk of an injury that could keep them out of action for a substantial period of time.

Sports with Inherent Injury Risks

Contact sports such as football, hockey and soccer expose the participants to not just injury to a variety of body parts, but also puts them at a higher risk of a traumatic brain injury such as a concussion or a series of concussions that could have long term effects. This is an issue that has become more prominent going back to youth sports, and there have been many attempts to make the games safer at an early age.

But don’t discount non-contact sports and the risk of injury they can also provide. Professional tennis players, downhill skiers, basketball players and even swimmers are using muscles and joints that take a regular pounding during competition. Foot, knee and leg injuries, muscles pulls, shoulder strains and a variety of other ailments can be responsible for missed time in any athletic endeavor.

Effort to Thwart Injuries

Over the years, there have been many efforts to make sports safer at all levels. From youth sports all the way to the professional level, attempts have been made to safeguard players through rule changes and equipment improvements to sports without changing the game all that much.

However, the human body is fragile, and injuries will never be totally eliminated. A player can twist and ankle or a knee, fall awkwardly, or take a hit to the head or another body part that causes an injury. Newer training methods are aimed at trying to strengthen the athlete to reduce the risk of injury, but unfortunately, that’s all it really does.

Robert Wickens Documents Injury on Social Media

But now, some professional athletes have chosen to post information regarding their sports injuries and rehabilitation efforts on social media. Take the case of Canadian race car driver Robert Wickens. The IndyCar driver was involved in a horrible crash at Pocono Raceway on August 19th, 2018 that left him with serious spinal cord injury among other serious injuries.

When it was discovered that Wickens had what he termed a T5 Incomplete Spinal Cord injury, he and his fiance began to search the internet looking for what rehab would look like for that type of spinal injury. But unfortunately, there was really nothing they could find. What they did find was information on a complete spinal cord injury where the chances for improvement were not possible, but nothing for a case like his where improvement was possible.

Showing his rehab off on social media

For that reason, they decided to use social media to show what rehabilitation looked like for his specific type of spinal cord injury. According to Wickens;

“We thought, for the most part, we just wanted to try to get that out there for that next person in line who has that same injury, that maybe they could stumble across what rehabilitation looked like for me.”

So as Wickens continues to rehab his injuries with the goal of getting back into a race car, he is also hoping that documenting his journey back from injury will help another person somewhere down the road.

Isaiah Thomas Documents Recovery on Social Media

Current Denver Nuggets guard Isaiah Thomas has also shared detailed information on social media. Thomas used the platform called the Players Tribune to post videos of many aspects of his career and life. The Players Tribune is a relatively new platform that provides a forum for professional athletes to share content.

Thomas, an undersized guard who had a career year with the Boston Celtics in the 2016-17 season, suffered a hip injury in March of that season but continued to play through the playoffs, aggravating the injury. In a series of interviews and video clips on the Players Tribune, Thomas discussed playing through the injury in an effort to help his team win. He was an upcoming free agent and wanted nothing more that to continue his career with the Celtics.

The Journey Documented on Players’ Tribune

But during the offseason, and with the injury still a concern, the Celtics shipped Thomas to the Cleveland Cavaliers in a trade involving the Cavaliers Kyrie Irving. A post-trade physical examination by Cleveland raised flags about the health of his injured hip and it wasn’t until January of 2018 that he made his Cavaliers debut. Thomas was not the player he was with the Celtics, and was later traded by the Cavs to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Thomas discussed his injury among many other things in the series of Players’ Tribune clips. From his will to make it in the NBA and overcome his size limitations, to his will and drive to silence the doubters who always doubted him, Thomas told his story of inspiration and overcoming obstacles  He talked about the drive and effort it will take for him to get back to his  former self on the basketball court. Thomas has used his social media platform to allow his fans to follow his journey which includes all aspects of his personal and professional life.

Gordon Hayward Documents Recovery on Social Media

Another Celtic player who joined the team the year after Isaiah left, is forward Gordon Hayward. Signed as free agent, Hayward signed a lucrative deal of 4 years and $128 million dollars in the summer of 2017, and with Irving was expected to take the Celtics to the NBA Championship. But in his very first regular season game with Boston, Hayward suffered a gruesome injury that that derailed him for the entire season and quite possibly put his career in doubt. Hayward suffered a fractured tibia and a dislocated ankle and knew that he was facing a long are tough rehab.

Hayward and his wife Robyn used Instagram to document his progress as he began working out after his injuries had healed enough to allow him to do so. Fans were able to get a glimpse of Hayward on the court practicing moves and working on his shot. It also served to provide hope for the Celtic fan base who may have been unsure about his return to the court. The social media platform provides players like Hayward the ability to post a true video look at the progress he has made at any particular point in time during their rehab process.

5 Part Series on Players’ Tribune

He has also put together a five-part video series from the Athletic and the Players’ Tribune documenting his hard-fought journey back to the court following the devastating injury. The series is titled “The Return” and lets fans see all aspects of the rehabilitation process as well as  interviews with Hayward as he talks about his desire to get back to the same All-Star player he was prior to the injury. His hope is that he is able to provide encouragement to others on how to battle back and overcome injuries or other obstacles people may face in their lives.

Lindsey Vonn Documents Recovery on Social Media

And it’s not just male professional athletes who have a wide reach on social media. Skier Lindsey Vonn, who recently retired from the sport due to the toll it has taken on her body, is one of the top social media influencer among professional athletes. With 1.5 million Instagram followers and 1 million Twitter followers, she reaches a lot of people with every post.

Instagram Announcement of Retirement

In fact, Vonn used Instagram to announce her retirement from skiing earlier this year. In an emotional post, Vonn stated that her body was “broken beyond repair” due to the many injuries she sustained during crashes. She also used the social media post to encourage athletes to “Never give up!”  to all the kids out there who follow her and to thank all of the people who sent her many words on encouragement after her injuries.

A search of her many Instagram posts allows her followers to see the amount of work, effort and training it takes to get her body in shape for the rigors of her sport. It also shows how much effort is required for anyone to meet their goals and that nothing comes easy to get to the top. She uses videos as well as pictures to tell her story of hard work and perseverance.

Vonn also documents pictures of her in hospital beds or photos of her injuries as she begins her journey of rehabilitation mixed with inspirational comments. Using the social media platform is a great way for her to provide comments that talk about will, perseverance and determination.

Serena Williams Documents Postpartum

Another female athlete, tennis star Serena Williams, is another of the professional athletes who is also a top social media influencer. Williams boasts 7.9 million Instagram followers and another 10.9 million followers on Twitter. Fortunately for her, Serena has not had a recent serious sports related injury in which to share through social media, but she did have a serious health scare after the birth of her baby back in 2017. Followers were able to follow Serena’s comeback and return to the court  following the birth of daughter Alexis Olympia.

Social media and the ability to influence followers is a platform that is only going to grow in the years to come. Some athletes, such as those mentioned in this article, have already found positive ways to use it as an advantage. Telling stories of personal triumph and perseverance can do wonders to inspire the millions of people who follow them and are able to see their journey in recovery and overcoming obstacles.

The Verdict

People around the world look up to athletes and can gain inspiration from hearing their stories of determination. For athletes to realize the power of their platform is something that many more of them should think about doing. Sure, not everyone is comfortable on social media and may not want their life on display for the world to see. However, if they do use social media and have developed a big following, they should think about what they can do positively to influence and motivate young people who have followed their career and admired them.

We have probably only touched the surface on the many ways that athletes can use a social media platform to deliver a message. But using it to provide useful information such as tracking and documenting their recovery process from an injury, or providing motivation and inspiration for their many followers, is definitely a worthwhile and helpful use of the platform. The hope is that athletes will continue to use these platforms as a way to spread positive and inspirational messages to their many loyal followers. The difference it can make will probably be much more than they could ever have imagined.