Deshaun Watson: Injury Rehab

Originally Published 8/22/2018

Deshaun Watson was putting on a show. He was in the middle of one of the most exciting and explosive rookie seasons the N.F.L. and their fans had ever seen. Then in the blink of an eye, his season was over after only seven games.


Deshaun Watson is the Quarterback of the Houston Texans, and in just seven games last season as a rookie, he accounted for 21 touchdowns and over 1700 yards of offense. He had the Texans in the playoff hunt, and they were looking like one of the better teams in the AFC South. Then in practice in early November Watson tore the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) in his right knee, ending his season, and essentially ending the Texans’ postseason hopes as well.

Now with NFL Preseason in full swing, Watson is healthy and ready to light the league on fire once again. But it hasn’t been easy to get back to his peak performance level. The nine month journey to get back to being healthy was challenging and grueling on Watson’s body and his mind.

When athletes get injured whether it’s a torn ACL, pulled hamstring, sprained ankle, or even a concussion, the journey to getting back on the field is not easy. It requires rehabilitation, or rehab for short, which is defined as the action of restoring something that has been damaged to its former condition. 

During rehab all the focus is on strengthening the injured muscles, tendons, and ligaments surrounding the injured area, but one particular muscle that is often neglected during the rehab process is the mind. A person’s mental conditioning is pivotal to help endure the rehab process, and often the mind needs strengthening during this process too.

When an athlete is injured they tend to cycle through a wave of emotions such as anger, doubt, frustration, impatience. Athletes become angry at the situation they are in. They will sometimes have doubts in their ability to get back to 100%. They become frustrated that they aren’t on the field, or how long their rehabilitation is taking. And this always coincides with impatience, as the athlete just wants to be healthy and competing, and they want to speed up their rehab.

These negative emotions begin to infect an athlete’s mindset and poison their journey to get back on the field. Mental Conditioning can help combat these emotions. I have broken down three key pillars to enduring rehab and helping athletes get back on field healthy mentally.

1) Process: Understand that regaining strength, mobility, and being 100% healthy will be a long journey, it will not be achieved overnight. Take it one day at a time. Embrace the grind. Up until the injury, an athlete’s main focus was being the best athlete they could be. They practiced, honed their craft, and took many repetitions. Now their focus becomes being the best rehabber they can be. That’s where their reps go. They use their competitive mentality and channel it into their rehab. The only person they have to beat, is themselves from yesterday. 

2) Present: Focus ONLY on today. What’s your goal TODAY? What needs to be achieved TODAY? Your passion is being a great athlete, and you work every day at that. Drills, reps, etc. Now rehab becomes your passion, it becomes your sport. Be GREAT at it.

3) Confidence: Use positive self-talk to get through the rehab. “I will get healthy again.” Once healthy, trust your rehab, trust your ability, trust that injuries are out of your control, and we can’t play in fear of getting injured again. Maintain this trust can help build confidence.

I found an interview Deshaun Watson did with Sports Illustrated. He preaches the idea of being present and trusting the process. I have copied a few of my favorite responses below, but give the whole interview a read to see more of what it takes to endure the anger, frustration, doubt, and impatience of rehabbing an injury.  

SI: Take us through the afternoon and evening after you went down in practice with your ACL injury.

DW: I was just trying to wrap my head around everything. I got a lot of calls, people texting me, and all the messages have an impact—people showing love and sending prayers and things like that. I was just trying to get my mind off football and focus on the process of getting back.

SI: What’s the rehab environment like?

DW: I’m around a lot of guys. That makes it a fun environment, each of us trying to make the others better, all the guys getting back healthy feeding off that energy.

SI: Is that competitive?

DW: I wouldn’t say it’s competitive, just because, when you’re competitive and trying to beat everybody, you can forget the details and the important parts of the rehab. So everyone’s just doing their job, focusing on every drill.

SI: What keeps you motivated and positive throughout the process?

DW: I’m self-motivated. I’m motivated for myself to be the best I can be—for me to do that I have to have my own motivation, my own positive energy. I’ve always been positive. I’m blessed to play a game I love, to throw a football, to have the things I have. There were times before where I didn’t have those things, I was still blessed. I’ve always been happy.


If you're an injured athlete, let me know how I can help you get through this journey. I will implement a plan for the youto dominate the mental side of the recovery process. We will not count the days to recovery, but we will make the days count!

Ben Kaplan