Coping with Injuries

Thanks once again to APA S&C Fabrizio Gargiulo for contributing another great Blog.  Fab will be running weekly blogs on the website for the foreseeable future so if you have a topic you would like Fab to write about then please drop us an email at  


Injuries are common place within sports at all levels and across all age groups. Notably the more mobile joints such as ankles, knees and shoulders are more susceptible to damage as well as the highly used large muscles such as the quadriceps and hamstrings and smaller stabilising muscles such as the rotator cuffs and peroneals. In this blog I will discuss the impact injuries have in terms of training management and the psychology behind managing said injury. I will draw from personal experience on both fronts – being the injured player and coaching an injured player and hope to be able to demonstrate some of the strategies used to success in the past. [BREAK]


Mechanism of injury

The ‘how’ someone became injured will play a large role in the rehabilitation and the psychological repair of the player. Mechanisms range from over-training, poor mechanics and single traumatic events such as contact injuries. Whilst every injury is individual there is a common series of actions required to getting the player back to full health and fitness and to return to competing. Initial RICE protocols and diagnosis of the injury will prevent further damage. Once a diagnosis is established a path of rehabilitative exercise and management possibly including; manipulation, massage, exercise and alteration of technique can be conducted. These phases can last for varying amount of time, with cases of days, weeks, months and even years before returning to action. Often the initial reaction of an athlete to an injury is met with a wide range of emotions which may include denial, anger, sadness and even depression. An injury often seems unfair to anyone who has been physically active and otherwise healthy. Developing coping strategies are vital to the quick return to the sporting field and for any future issues. Having been on the receiving end of an injury nearly every year that I have competed, I have experienced most of the aforementioned emotions and learnt how to ‘handle’ being injured more successfully, I try to pass these experiences onto my athletes and clients. [BREAK]

Coping during the rehabilitation time

day 1

The varying amount of time needed to recover from an injury also has a significant impact on the psychological state of repair. There are several methods of adjusting to cope with injuries; however acceptance is the first key issue – occasionally athletes will refuse to accept they have an injury and continue to play through, often this can be as a result of denial or stress or the importance of the competition. If they are truly injured and continuing will cause further detriment to their physical state they should be removed from competition. Once the athlete has accepted their changed state of readiness they can begin the healing process. This is not to accept blame for the injury but to understand what they are capable of currently and what they need to do in order to return to full fitness and competition. [BREAK]

Learning about the injury; how it occurred, what the diagnosis is, what treatment can be done and how long it can take to recover from will all help the athlete to gain an understanding of the injury. In the case of any surgical procedures – something that I have encountered – it is reassuring to know what the surgeon is going to do and how the procedure will work etc. The first time I underwent surgery I was only 21, it was my first major injury and I was very apprehensive going into theatre. The surgery went well, the rehab and recovery the same and I was able to play at the highest level again for 5 more years before I suffered the same injury. This time when I went in for surgery I was far more relaxed and just looking forward to getting it over with and returning to training and playing once again. Having been through the process of having the same injury happen twice and conducting plenty of my own research into how to rehabilitate it and return to competition as quickly as possible, I was confident in my return on both occasions. [BREAK]

day 10

Staying involved – I found that this is possibly one of the biggest factors in helping to overcome the injury psychologically, especially in team sports where you are used to having the support network of your team mates around you. In so called individual sports such as tennis, badminton, swimming, equestrian and athletics, the athlete still has a support network of fellow competitors, coaches, medical staff, physiotherapists, massage therapists and possibly agents or performance managers. At APA we have this support team surrounding all of our players and this helps both the player; to have people to stay in touch with on a daily basis and the coach; to draw expertise from different areas. Staying around the training centre also helps the athlete to maintain their ‘athlete identity’. Many athletes, especially if professional from an early age will not have done anything other than play their sport, therefore having a serious injury and having to spend time away from the sport would be a serious shock and can be difficult to handle mentally. Useful ways to keep players involved can be through coaching – supporting the coaches, especially with younger groups of players maintains a sense of the journey they have taken to get to where they are now. Keeping the player in some form of training if possible – a leg injury shouldn’t restrict them from upper body training in the gym or vice versa. Maintaining fitness is also important for a quicker and smoother transition to playing again. [BREAK]

Being professional in everything you do will speed up the recovery process. This ranges from being proactive and precise with your rehabilitation, to managing your mood and behaviour away from training, getting the correct nutritional support into your body and focusing all your energies towards returning to full health and competition. All of these actions require considerable effort and this is why having a team of support around you is a massive help. Regular support from medical staff to reassure the athlete of progress being made and with modern social media, support from people in similar situations can be found from all over. [BREAK]

day 18

Returning to competition

Psychologically this is potentially the hardest part of recovering from an injury, especially if you were injured on the field of play. The fear of repeating the injury, having trust in the joint or muscle or not being able to return to the level of which you were previously playing can weigh heavily on the mind. The main supporting factor in regaining trust in yourself is time and making small steps of progress rather than rushing back. However at some point you do need to be in deep enough water to swim. Having people who have experienced similar situations and overcome injuries successfully can be a useful resource to draw from.

playing   [BREAK]

Ultimately athletes love to compete and will find solace in being able to return to playing. Patience, support, gradual progress and staying strong mentally are all part of the recipe for success to return to full health and competition.

Athlete led learning for U11's – Problem solving in a multi-task environment


APA coaches have been working with young athletes for the past 15 years, ages start from 4 years upwards. Coaching of young children requires a very different approach to coaching adolescent or adult athletes. Engagement in the activity is a key factor and making the sessions fun will ensure the child wants to continue learning. Mixed in with all this from an S&C coaches’ view point is the need to improve some of the physical qualities of the young athlete. APA operates itself around 5 key principles: Skill, Speed, Strength, Suppleness and Stamina. These key areas are expressed differently with different age groups and have different levels of importance based on the individual needs of the athlete and the current stage of training they are at.  

At U11 level we focus on developing an all round great athlete by improving their fundamental movement skills; this includes the ability to balance, co-ordinate themselves in relation to objects and to synchronise movements. Our role as S&C coaches is to improve these areas so that it translates to improved sporting success. One of the centres APA currently works at is Gosling Sports Park, home to one of only four International high performance centres for tennis in the country. Gosling has over 500 children accessing the centre to learn how to play tennis and to improve their play, both physically and tactically. APA S&C coaches work with young athletes on a daily basis and one of the current themes of work has been focused on balance, locomotive synchronisation (different types of movement such as running, skipping, carioca, side shuffles and hopping) and rhythm. As S&C coaches we like to have a quantifiable measure of athleticism and performance. Wobble cushion balance, and agility run and skipping have been used to measure the three areas of improvement recently. Initial training involved static balancing, learning of different types of movements and various skipping challenges. There was a mixed ability amongst the young athletes and thus as expected they all improved at their own individual rates, however upon re-testing all of them had either learnt new skills, whereby they previously couldn’t skip or do carioca or side shuffling. Or they had improved the level to which they could co-ordinate their own bodies to skip, move and balance.  

This has led to our next themes for work over the 6 weeks leading up to the Christmas break. Dynamic balance – including stopping and landing mechanics will be the progression from static balance, reactive agility and movement will enhance the learnt locomotive skills and crawling patterns will begin to develop some ‘functional’ strength. APA has invested vast amounts of time into developing the curriculum we use to enhance our young players’ athleticism, however we do not get vast amount of time to deliver all of the coaching aspects that we want to improve on. This is where the expertise of the APA coaches Daz Drake (founder of APA), Martin Skinner, Dom Boyle and myself (Fab Gargiulo) comes into play. We use innovative and intuitive methods that for example with the U11 academy players, can encompass a vast amount of training, learning and development into a short amount of time. I work predominantly with the U11 age group and as part of a tennis squad session will get 20mins per group to work with and improve their physical proficiency.  

A method I have recently been using to great effect with the young athletes is to combine many of these areas of focus into an assault course. This works on many levels; firstly the exciting nature of having lots of equipment to use (as well as the coaching) keeps the children engaged in the tasks, making the assault course challenging. Placing restrictions on how they can move about engages them to think for themselves and to problem solve.  Finally, building in team work and competition encourages them to focus and do their best and most importantly from the coaches perspective is that all of the aspects you want to improve can be covered. The structure of the course can be changed every week/session and can have different aims of focus. Currently as balance is a key area for improvement my young athletes are working on staying on a line whilst navigating obstacles with a few coach led constraints in place such as; not being allowed inside a hoop or having to face in one direction at all times. However the emphasis on this type of task is for the athletes to lead their own learning and discovery often by trial and error. To some children this comes naturally, to others less so. The ability for them to problem solve whilst doing an athletic task will have great translation across other aspects of their later lives, but also works very well in a sporting context, particularly an individual sport such as tennis, where the player is not allowed to receive any coaching whilst playing and must overcome many psychological barriers as well as physical demands in order to be successful. Part of the training is aimed at the young athletes ability to think for themselves and I consider this a key component to developing mental strength for later challenges. The children have loved the training so far, the aspects of training that have been targeted are improving all while being very engaging and challenging to the athletes – something I like to describe as ‘hiding the vegetables’.  


  As with most coaching techniques there is a trade off between the depth of work done on a single aspect of fitness versus covering many areas at once. The rationale for the method of work I am currently using is that many areas need to be covered in a short space of time and with varying levels of athlete all working at the same time. During individual sessions I will spend greater time on specific areas, but the group sessions have worked well with a continued variance in activity and lots of activity. As a team of S&C coaches at APA we have discussed this topic on several occasions without drawing a definitive conclusion and I believe that there is no single way to ‘skin a rabbit’ but that varied approaches should be considered dependent upon the situation.  

Taking different approaches towards training outcomes will always be a discussion point, so we’d love to hear from you online or at one of the forthcoming APA workshops with your view points. Hopefully this quick article has highlighted the innovative ideas we have at APA and how we work to achieve the maximum potential out of all our athletes, as young as 4 years old.  

Thanks for reading, be sure to check out for more information on APA training and connect with us via twitter and facebook.

Fabrizio Gargiulo