It is oft said that kicking is 80% mental (or some similar percentage that conveys that same intent). Does that also apply when one is less than 100% physically healthy? Physical rehab from kicking/punting/snapping/football injuries is widely discussed, but less so the mental aspects. We asked the pool of experts, "What's involved mentally during the course of an injury, recovery, and/or returning to play?"
Ben Aguilar, Chicago Thunder kicker
Injury is the worst mental game. More than getting nervous or feeling the pressure of that game winning field goal attempt/snap, danger punt, etc. When you are healthy, you know it is all on you and you know what to do. When you are not 100% healthy, there is an added "unknown" and worry about when/if you will hurt yourself again giving it your all. Then, if you re-injure yourself, you are out even longer and the recovery is typically much harder. It is a nagging reminder in the back of your head from warm-ups to the last kick/punt/snap of the night. Every attempt could be your last! It makes EVERY attempt that "game winner" or "danger" attempt.
Kyle Stelter, Special Teams University
A couple months before my senior season of college football I dislocated my shoulder. It was a pretty bad dislocation and actually had some tears in my labrum, which is the cartilage that holds your shoulder in the socket. I didn't want to take time off football to have surgery so I opted to just rehab and strengthen the muscles around it to keep it in place. I only had a couple months before I had to report for football in the fall so I rehabbed like crazy. I did it a couple times a day, and did everything I could to make sure my shoulder was as close to 100% as possible. When I reported for camp it wasn't quite 100%, I was scared to try a lot of things with training and in practice because I was afraid I would injure it again. I ended up having to change the way I snapped slightly in order to protect my shoulder. I ended up having a great year, but the fear of re-injuring my shoulder was always lingering. I had to play like I wasn't worried about it. If you have any doubt in your mind that you will get hurt again you will protect yourself and not give it your all. With snapping if you do not snap with 100% effort every time your snaps will wobble, arch, or be off target. Get yourself to the point where you feel comfortable being active and snapping with 100% effort before you go back or the mental side of the injury will get to you.
Chris Kluwe, Minnesota Vikings punter
Ignoring that it ever happened and just going out and playing like you did before. If you let injuries get in your head, you're not thinking about doing your job, and you probably won't keep it for long if that's the case.
Tony Smidl, Wisconsin Wolfpack kicker 2010
After an injury occurs, the first thought is really negative and depressing depending on the severity. I've been through too many of them unfortunately and at the wrong times. I broke my kicking ankle two days before homecoming senior year in high school. I over kicked in camp Freshman year of college and was cut with a groin injury. One hilarious moment was right before a college game I would normally kick the upright pad for leg lock on my kicking foot. This was a cold October game and when I went to kick the upright on my foot, I literally did kick the upright because the padding had been twisted, OUCH! Two weeks prior to trying out with Louie's/Husted's camp, I broke the outside of my plant foot and had to cancel the trip and tryout.
Injuries suck, but its how you respond to them. I am still kicking and enjoy doing so even after all of my miscues of injuring something on my legs. The mental aspect is how you respond when you fall, do you get back up or feel sorry for yourself? After breaking my foot in high school I went through excruciating rehab and practiced kicking in the snow. After I was cut freshman year in college, I started all four years after in Platteville and was All-American senior year. After breaking my plant foot before Louie's Camp, I started with baby steps in my room doing squats with tolerable pain and one month later I was running on treadmills. A few weeks later I ran my first Half Marathon and three weeks later I ran my first Full Marathon in 5 hours. Three weeks after the first Marathon, I ran a second Marathon in 4.5 hrs and to top it off ran a 10K a few weeks later in 40 min.
I played semi-pro last year and enjoyed kicking once again. Injuries are only short-term, it's about seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and knowing that each day from that point of pain, it will be a little bit better than the day before. The pain will start to go away and you'll be back to your ole self again.
Don't be selfish with injuries, listen to what the trainer tells you to do, and carry it out. Pain is only temporary, and time goes by so fast these days that you have to remain positive throughout rehab knowing that one day you'll be back to normal. Very much like being sick, you feel like crap, don't want to eat, but know that this is not permanent and that in a certain time frame, you'll be happy and back to normal.
TIP: BE POSITIVE AND KNOW IT'S NOT PERMANENT!