GUWC weightlifting captain - Alex Easson, credit GU Weightlifting

UofG student discusses mental health impact of sport-related injury

By Natasha Coyle

Alex Easson, Women’s Olympic Weightlifting Captain in GUWC, discussed the broader impacts of her lower back injury on her studies and mental health.

Alex Easson, fourth year medical student and committee member of Glasgow University Weightlifting Club (GUWC), suffered a herniated disk in her spine two years ago. Alex had to take six months out from the sport she loves to rest and recover. However, injury and recovery is not a straightforward journey. Alex emphasised how her injury impacted her mental health and social life at university.

“My injury had such a big impact on my mental health,” Alex said. “I couldn’t train and training is such a big part of my life. And because I couldn’t train, it impacted my mental health hugely. I use training as a way to socialise but also as a stress-reliever. It’s something I’m very passionate about so when it was taken away from me, I just didn’t know what to do with myself.”

During the first few months of her injury, Alex tried to train through the pain but then realised this was only delaying her recovery. “I completely stopped training. I only did basic cardio. All I could do was cycling for a solid couple of months because everything else hurt too much. At least I could still walk,” she said.

Although Alex’s injury didn’t prevent her from attending most of her classes, there were moments where the pain she was experiencing was all-consuming. Alex had to miss a week of classes in her already packed schedule as a medical student: “There was about a week where I was in hospital after totally collapsing due to the pain in my back. I literally couldn’t move. That was the only time I couldn’t walk. The hospital gave me some really strong pain medication and I was fine after that.”

Through the Hampden Sports Clinic with financial help from her family, Alex received private treatment from the physio. However, she stressed that she received no help or support from the university. “I received no support through the uni. The physio was really expensive. If I hadn’t had my parents helping me, I genuinely don’t know what I would have done. I was really lucky,” she commented.

Alex has now fully recovered from the herniated disk in her spine and is the Women’s Olympic Weightlifting Captain for GUWC. Back fit and heavily involved with all aspects of her club, Alex reflected on the social struggles she underwent when she was injured. “It depended on the pain as to whether I could attend socials or not. If it was really bad, I literally couldn’t leave the house because I was too sore. “Most of the time it was okay, though. But the injury did impact me socially.”

Student athletes who end up injured also suffer major consequences on their mental health, especially when they feel like they have no one who understand what they’re going through. “I didn’t know anyone else with a long-term injury that required surgery or anything. I think that’s made my injury more difficult because I didn’t really know who to turn to about it. I would’ve helped if I knew someone who had been through it before but I didn’t know anyone else who had been injured,” Alex commented.

Currently, there is no formal injury support forum for student athletes in GUSA. The concept is one that Mario Killmann, GUSA President, is considering exploring. “Last year during the Movember campaign, people did share their injury recovery stories and the impacts of that on their mental health on social media. But that isn’t quite the same as a support network,” Mario stated. “The support network is an interesting idea. It’s something that can definitely be explored.”

Although Alex was frustrated that she had to stop her training during her recovery period, she remained positive and channelled her energy into learning new skills.“For anyone who is currently injured or may be in the future, I would say it can be frustrating, but channel your energy into other things that you wouldn’t normally have time for. Because you can’t do your sport anymore, use that time to do something else that you wouldn’t otherwise have time to do before,” she said.

“I learnt how to edit videos and try out more creative stuff because of the extra time on my hands. Use your time to do other things to distract you from the injury.”


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