Returning to Diving After an Injury

When you have a serious injury, it is normal to consider leaving the sport you treasure. But it is a difficult decision and one that should never be made without rational, objective deliberation.

For many athletes, serious injuries have a big psychological impact; they can discourage even the most positive of divers. If you are going through this, you are not alone.

However, before you throw in the towel and say enough is enough, consider these five points:

1. How Serious Is the Injury

Before you give up, make sure your injury is serious enough to warrant such a decision.

Listen to your doctor. If it is a repetitive injury, ask if time off is likely to heal it completely. If yes, take the time needed, do the exercises your doctor or coach recommends and when you are ready, work on coming back.

However, if the injury is likely to return each time you commit yourself to the sport, you may need to decide if you want to put yourself — and your body — through such a painful cycle.

2. What Are Your Goals

Before you make this decision, clearly lay out your diving plans. Some of the plans you will want to consider include:

  • College Diving: What role does diving play in your college plans? If it is significant, say you are on a college scholarship, will you be able to afford the school without the athletic aid?
  • Dreams: Did you want to compete in the NCAA’s? Did you always dream of competing at the Olympic Trials? What are your dreams? Are you ready to put those away?

If you decide that diving is no longer something you want to pursue, stand firm in the knowledge that you gave this decision your utmost attention and consideration. For many, hanging up their bathing suit can be an exciting move towards a new path in life.

If on the other hand, you want to give it another shot, make sure you write out realistic short and long-term goals; these goals will help you actively pursue your dreams.

Here are some examples:

  • Short-term goal: Perform a 103B, 105B 5133D and 5233D by a specific date. Compete at a local competition by a specific date.
  • Long-term goal: Compete at Nationals and place in the top five.

Dedicate yourself to hard work in the pool and out. Determine if the goals you set for yourself are honestly achievable.

When you have crossed a goal off your list, be proud — no matter how small of an accomplishment. Take pleasure in knowing that you were willing to work hard and achieve something that was difficult.

“Success is never permanent, and failure is never final.”

Mike Ditka
Former NFL player and coach

3. Reality Check

It will take time to overcome a serious injury. It is not a simple process. If the success you are working towards isn’t coming as quickly as you anticipated, give yourself a reality check: Is the effort and work all worth it?

Be honest. If diving is causing too much pain, it may be time to step back for awhile. On the other hand, maybe you are being too hard on yourself. Perhaps your injury just needs more time to heal, or, maybe you can adjust your training to avoid the dives/positions that aggravate it.

Try re-evaluating your goals: Make your short-term goals easier and more attainable. That way you will receive positive feedback quickly and feel a sense of accomplishment. Your coach or mentor is also a great source of encouragement — rely on that support. But in the end, you need to be true to yourself and make the decision that is right for you.

4. Is the Competitive Track Still For You

Sometimes an injury will take you out of the sport during your prime. If this is the case, and you decide that a competitive track is no longer your path, there are many opportunities for staying involved with diving.


Masters diving is for adults who are no longer on the national/international competitive track. It is a great way to graduate from a highly competitive atmosphere into a more relaxed and friendly environment.


Consider working as a coach or assistant coach. Your experience and knowledge is valuable and can truly help another diver with their efforts. It is a rewarding experience and also keeps you involved in the sport you love.

Diving job

Many amusement parks and adventure parks hire divers to perform in their shows. It is a great way to continue with the sport and perform in front of an audience without the pressure of competition.

Amazingly True Story

When Cassidy Kahn was a freshman diver at Indiana University, she developed a small rash on her legs. Within a few days, she realized something was seriously wrong. She was taken to the hospital and diagnosed with a rare flesh-eating bacterial infection called necrotizing fasciitis. It carries a high mortality rate even after powerful antibiotics are administered.

After multiple surgeries, she was left crippled and told she would never dive again, but she was determined to fight and return to the sport she loved. After a grueling two-year recovery, in November of 2009 — all her hard work paid off. She placed 8th at the Hoosierland Invitational on the 10-meter platform, marking an incredible come-back victory.

5. Don’t Live With Regret

Finally, whatever decision you make, make sure it is one you can live with. Give yourself time to honestly evaluate your choices and be realistic about your future. Many athletes come back from an injury and soar even higher than they did before.

Make sure you truly consider these points:

  • If you quit now, will you always wonder “what if,” If yes, then give serious consideration to returning to diving. Do not set yourself up to live with regret.
  • If an injury has taken you out of the sport — do you feel you have accomplished enough that you can accept walking away?

Sometimes there are elements that are out of your control. A serious injury is one of those. You may strongly desire to come back, but the reality is that your injury won’t let you. If that is the case, make sure you make peace with that reality before you say it is over.

Comeback Story

The decision to walk away from the sport is very personal. No matter what your choice, stay true to yourself, so that whether you become a coach, a mentor, qualify for the Olympics — or never step inside a pool again — you can walk away proud.

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