Are you mentally ready to compete after injury?
Last updated: March 2023
Psychological readiness to return to jiu-jitsu competition.
As a jiu-jitsu athlete, injuries are unfortunately a common occurrence. Whether it's a sprained ankle or a torn ligament, injuries can keep you out of competition for weeks or even months. But how do you know when you're truly ready to return to the mats?
Returning to competition after an injury can be a challenging experience for any athlete, and for jiu-jitsu athletes, this can be particularly difficult. Jiu-jitsu is a demanding sport that requires developed physical qualities, including strength, flexibility, and agility. Injuries are common, and recovering from them can be slow and frustrating. We commonly focus on these physical qualities in our return to sport testing, but how often do we include the equally important mental and psychological testing?
In fact, psychological readiness in return to sport assessment after injuries such as ACL injury has been demonstrated to be more predictive of the ability to return to sport and not sustain another injury than functional testing! (ref).
Psychological readiness may be more predicitve than functional testing for positive outcomes in returning to sport and risk of re-injury
How do we decide when to return to jiu-jitsu competition?
The gold standard for return to sport testing is the use of a battery of tests to make an informed and shared decision about returning to competition, including physical and psychological measures:
Physical test specific to the injury - e.g. local strength, agility tests (vertical and horizontal hop test)
Physical tests specific to the sport - movement quality and ability to repeat efforts at high intensity
Psychological readiness to return to sport - subjective scoring measures
The decision to compete or not following injury is always complex, with many factors feeding into the decision-making process. Psychological factors are generally underappreciated in combat sports athletes when deciding whether to compete, so I'm arguing for a more regular use of measures as part of the decision-making process for grapplers.
One of the best measures for grappling athletes is the psychological readiness to return to sport (I-PRRS) scale, which can support this decision-making process for any injury. If necessary, this can also be used in conjunction with validated regional or injury-specific outcome measures (of which many are available).
If you are working through rehabilitation and need guidance as to whether to compete or to understand where you are at, try working through the I-PRRS questions.
How do I use the I-PRRS?
The injury-psychological readiness to return to sport (I-PRRS) scale is used to help assess psychological readiness to return to sport. The 6-item scale can help guide decision-making on appropriate timing for injured athletes to return to full sports participation and competition.
For each of the following questions, rate your confidence to participate in full sporting activity today on a scale from 0 - 10 (0 = no confidence at all, 5 = moderate confidence, 10 = complete confidence).
My overall confidence to compete is ___
My confidence to compete without pain is ___
My confidence to give 100% effort is ___
My confidence to not concentrate on the injury is ___
My confidence in the injured body part to handle the demands of grappling is ___
My confidence in my skill level/ability is ___
You will now have a total score out of 60. Divide your total score by 60, and x that by 100 to give you a percentage score (i.e. [6+5+7+4+2+7 = 31], [31/60 = 0.52], [0.52*100 = 52% I-PRRS score].
N.b. the questions have been slightly modified to apply to grappling athletes.
When should I use the I-PRRS?
The I-PRRS can be used at different stages, from initial injury to the return to full competition, and beyond as part of re-injury prevention plans. These commonly include:
Shortly after injury - this provides a baseline score.
During rehabilitation - used at intervals through rehabilitation to assess progression.
Before returning to the first practice - help guide decision-making to return to the jiu-jitsu mats.
Before returning to competition - Used as part of a battery of tests to clear athletes to return to full-intensity competition.
Immediately after competition - check-in against the plan and guide further injury prevention plans.
The results should be factored into the larger decision-making process and considered as one piece of the puzzle. Psychological readiness is an important part of the StARRT framework, which considers causal relationships with injury to support the overall decision-making process.
How can I improve my I-PRRS scores?
Exercise rehabilitation programs are designed to help athletes regain strength, mobility, and function after an injury. But they can also help to rebuild confidence and improve psychological readiness to return to sport. Through consistent training and gradual progression, athletes can regain their physical abilities and confidence in their body's capabilities.
Exercise rehabilitation can help to identify any remaining physical limitations or weaknesses that may affect the grappling athlete's ability to return to their sport safely. By addressing these limitations and weaknesses through targeted exercises and training, athletes can reduce their risk of re-injury and improve their overall performance.
High levels of physical function are crucial to psychological readiness in sports. Incorporating subjective measures such as the I-PRRS scores into the injury management process can help to assess an athlete's confidence and psychological readiness to return to sport. These measures can provide valuable insight into an athlete's mental state and help to identify any areas of concern that may need to be addressed before returning to competition.
Remember, the best-practice gold standard of return to sport testing includes injury-specific testing, sports-specific testing, and psychological readiness. Include all three for optimal outcomes.
Need help with your return to competition? Contact Tim or consider a telehealth consultation to discuss your return to sport.
References and Further Reading
Glazer DD. Development and preliminary validation of the Injury-Psychological Readiness to Return to Sport (I-PRRS) scale. J Athl Train. 2009 Mar-Apr;44(2):185-9. doi: 10.4085/1062-6050-44.2.185. PMID: 19295964; PMCID: PMC2657021.
Faleide AGH, Magnussen LH, Strand T, et al. The Role of Psychological Readiness in Return to Sport Assessment After Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction. The American Journal of Sports Medicine. 2021;49(5):1236-1243. doi:10.1177/0363546521991924
Shrier I. Strategic Assessment of Risk and Risk Tolerance (StARRT) framework for return-to-play decision-making. Br J Sport Med 2015;49:1311–1315. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2014-094569.