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I am a college student. I was playing football until a few months ago. When I was playing football my body was fit and fine. Also I had good stamina.

One day I saw a football accident clip on the internet. Since then I have been afraid of playing football. It has been more than 6 months now, and my body has lost its shape and I am losing my stamina. Honestly I dont want to walk away from football as I love this game and also it helps me to be in shape and fit.

How can I resume football? Is there any other option to stay fit and in shape? Please dont tell me to go to a gym. We dont have a gym facility in our college, and I cant afford an outside gym.

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Have you tried people a friendly game? You know, one where the opponent isn't after your head? Besides is this American Football or soccer/football? – Ivo Flipse Apr 2 '12 at 13:23
Could this be more of a sports.SE question? It seems like a good answer would come from somebody that has studied sports psychology. – user3085 Apr 2 '12 at 16:23
Actually, after a brief search, doesn't seem like there are any experts in that area over there, so may as well answer this one here. People can lose confidence after experiencing injuries as much as from witnessing them, so an answer to this question should be helpful to a lot of people. – user3085 Apr 2 '12 at 16:26
up vote 4 down vote accepted

Any type of physical activity carries some degree of injury, and that's a risk you should consciously be aware of when engaging in any kind of team or individual sport. The clip you saw is probably an extreme case or an outlier. If the clip was of a more common injury, then I think you probably need to address some mental barriers.

If you're engaged in team sports, perhaps what you need is to switch to friendlier or more casual games if your current sportsmates are more competitive or agressive. You should be participating with people who are aware of what the rules are and have good sportsmanship. If the environment of your football activity is not a healthy one, I suggest finding a different group of people.

Instead of going straight back to football, what you might want to try are low-impact exercises. Low-impact exercises put less stress on your body than other strenuous activities. They are not something only for the elderly who may have problems with joints or muscles. Low-impact exercises are good for cardiovascular health without putting stress on injured body parts. While low-impact exercises are not completely free of any risk of injury, the likelihood of it is less.

Some low-impact exercises include:

  • Swimming:
    It works out every muscle in the body and has very low impact on your joints due to being in the water.

  • Walking
    This is the simplest and easiest thing you can do. You can increase your pace and go for longer walks to get a better workout, and it's a good way to travel.

  • Nordic walking
    This is an exercise that is essentially walking with specially designed poles. Nordic walking involves applying force to the poles and using your upper body to propel yourself forward. Its impact is no different than plain walking.

  • Yoga
    Improving your balance, strength, and flexibility can be done via yoga. Note that you don't want to push yourself too much if any of the postures or exercises are beyond your physical capabilities.

  • Tai Chi Although it does not have a huge cardiovascular component, it certainly helps with posture and strength. It looks slow, but I can say from personal experience that it does work out your muscles when balancing and going through the movements.

  • Dancing
    You can get pretty active doing various dances, and it's a good workout for your muscles and core. Zumba is pretty popular right now which is a Latin-inspired dance program for fitness. You can check out some of the Zumba questions on this site.

If you want to work on strength but don't have access to a gym or set of weight, you can train using bodyweight exercises. Bodyweight exercises uses your own weight as resistance for the movement. Some bodyweight exercises include:

  • Push-ups
  • Pull-ups
  • Squats
  • Walking lunges
  • Planks

Since you're trying to ease back into football after six months of inactivity, it would be a good idea to start out small and slow. Once your body adapts and becomes more familiar with what you're doing, you can then slowly increase your intensity by extending your workout sessions or loading more resistance. After some time, you should be able to reach whatever level you were at before and continue improving and growing in that area.

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I'm not an expert in this area specifically, but I've been trained as a flight instructor with students having to overcome fear of failure or accident. I've had students that were absolutely terrified, to the point of crying, and I've helped them through it to their success.

I found this to be a good podcast: My answer is based on personal experience and material from this podcast.

After an injury (or witnessing one, in your case) overcoming fear of re-injury is a big hurdle. When you play with this fear, you will play tentatively, you will hesitate, and you will play tight, perhaps even increasing likelihood of injury. The worry about the particular previous injury causes you to focus on all the wrong things, and opens you up to other injuries and poor performance than if you removed the concern.

The longer you spend away from your sport, rebuilding confidence is also a huge factor. Confidence is hard to maintain even without the reminder of injury. You have to somehow get rid of the anxiety.

To break out of this cycle of thinking, you need to find a way to refocus your attention when you play. Be competitive, get in the game. Think about the play developing, running hard, beating your defender. You might need to redevelop this focus in practice before returning to a competitive game. (For example, a few weeks ago, I started practicing some plyometric jumps outside of my sport, and the next time I went to play, I just jumped instinctively for a block I wouldn't have gone for before... the reaction from my training just took over.)

I think you may surprise yourself at how easily your competitive spirit can take over once you start playing and help you forget all about the injury.

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