攝 Photo: Worldwide Dancer Project (照片由余曉彤提供 Photo provided by Heidi Yu)
盧：壓力有可能是最開初的其中一個元素。可能是家中發生了事情，或者學校有很多功課，當需要顧及的事情較多或煩惱較多時，人就比較難集中，做動作時可能會產生較多的錯誤、睡眠質量下降、精神不足等，全部都直接影響注意力和判斷。平時可以觀察整個舞台，但當疲累、緊張、壓力大、難以集中時，視野會變窄。這樣就較難顧及一個大的範圍，導致出現錯誤的次數增加，受傷的機率也增大。其中一個傷患模型被稱為壓力傷患模型（stress injury model），形容的正是這種情況。
盧：可以通過心理技能訓練（psychological skills），教你集中注意力。譬如要踏上舞台，你能否將生活上煩惱、壓力大的事情忘卻，或暫擱一旁呢？曾經有運動員和我分享他的例子，生活的事情和思緒常常令他感到混亂，但當上到球場時，他就會將日常的擔憂放到一個想像的垃圾桶內——這個大垃圾桶是綠色的，就在球場的線外。這有助他將注意力完全轉移到球場賽事上。或可以在準備上場表演前，把煩惱的問題在腦海寫到一張紙上，然後大力地丟進垃圾桶。利用以上這些意象工具（imagery tools），去嘗試幫助自己。
A Conversation with Karen Lo: Between injury and uncertainty
Text: Heidi Yu
Translator: Pomny Au
Yu: When I was doing my professional ballet training in Mainland China, I saw that people whose bodies were in good physical condition and who were resilient emotionally, could continue to develop while those who were prone to injuries and lacked mental fortitude would be naturally eliminated from the industry. In recent years the international dance industry has been increasingly interested in and concerned about injury prevention and healthy dance practice. Compared to the past, there has been a lot of improvement. However, even if we ensure a suitable environment for dance practice, and a scientific, measured approach to training, we cannot completely avoid injuries. Could you share with us some help and advice for athletes and dancers who are feeling down and troubled because of injury?
Lo: Academic research tries to use different ’injury models’ to explain changes in the emotional experience which follows being injured. For example, dancers who have little experience of injury may not accept the fact that they are injured, or even deny it has happened. They may become agitated, angry, infuriated, feeling “Why did this have to happen right at the start?”, or “If I had done more preparation and stretching before the competition, I would not have got hurt.” It is when they are recovering that they start to accept the fact that they have been injured. There are various schools of psychology that offer different perspectives on the psychological changes after getting hurt. The above is one example. Of course this kind of academic theory is for reference only and because in real life cases differ, I personally don’t rely on it. The most important thing is to look at what athletes or dancers are going through at this moment and what kind of emotional changes they are facing, so as to give them the right therapy.
Yu: When we talk about injury, we usually think of physical issues like excessive exercise or sprains. However, studies have shown that injuries are related to stress. When a person is stressed or burnt out, they are more likely to get injured. Do you think this is the case?
Lo: Stress may be one of the initial factors. Say there is a problem in the family, or a lot of work at school. When there are too many things to deal with or there are problems, it’s harder to concentrate. People tend to make mistakes in movements, sleep badly or have low energy levels, factors which affect their concentration and judgement. Under normal circumstances, you can keep everything in perspective but when you are tired, tense and have difficulty concentrating, your field of vision will narrow. You have too much to cope with and end up making more mistakes and becoming prone to injury. One of the injury models, the so-called ‘stress injury model’ describes exactly this situation.
Yu: How can we avoid such incidents happening?
Lo: We can use psychological skills to train ourselves to concentrate. Before going on stage, can you put aside or forget about your troubles and stress? An athlete once told me that he felt a lot of confusion about things in his life. However, when he went on to the court, he imagined that there was a big green rubbish bin outside the court. He put all his worries into the bin so that he could concentrate on the game. You can also write your problems on an imaginary piece of paper before a performance, and throw the paper into the bin. You can use these imagery tools to help you.
Yu: Even if these tools cannot get rid of your stress, they can help you to concentrate at the right moments without stress affecting you. Another point: when dancers are injured and cannot participate fully in class, is there a way for them to be involved instead of having to just sit and watch?
Lo: That’s an excellent question. When dancers can’t engage or interact with others in class because of injuries,the feeling of being alone and isolated is one of the things they often worry about. I suggest that teachers assign tasks to the injured dancers. If a dancer has a leg injury and can only sit in class, the teacher can involve him or her by inviting them to help . It could be something as simple as taking roll call, or the injured dancer could act as a teaching assistant and check if other participants have completed the required tasks, or explain a dance move to them. If the teacher doesn’t take the time to pay attention to injured dancers and give them things to do, they can take the initiative themselves to review dance steps or take up other roles during class.
Yu: If dancers have serious injuries that take a long time to heal, and after recovering are afraid of performing steps similar to the ones that caused their injury, how do you help them to overcome this fear?
Lo: Generally, fear comes from uncertainty. Faced with the unknown, people become uneasy and feel afraid. You fear that you will get hurt doing the same steps again because you are uncertain if you can execute the steps correctly. For example, you may not be sure if you can handle landing a jump properly. When you practise the same technique again, you need to nurture your sense of certainty, doing the steps repeatedly until they become routine. Teachers should also give appropriate feedback. They should point out what the dancers have done well to make them feel confident again instead of just pointing out their mistakes.
Yu: So that way, with support from the teacher, the dancers can re-build their confidence in doing the same steps.
Lo: Correct. If the dancers are having physiotherapy at the same time, they can ask the physiotherapist to keep them informed of how their recovery is progressing. This information helps the dancers to make plans and schedule their time with greater certainty. They can also try to set themselves small, short-term goals during recovery. The goals can span one week, including things they can achieve both mentally and physically. For example, this week you may want to focus on taking care of your emotions. Next week, you may do more walking, letting your feet feel the ground more. This enables you to gradually see improvements and build up your self-confidence.
Sports and Performance Psychologist in Hong Kong. Graduated from the University of Hong Kong with Bachelor of Social Science (Psychology) and Boston University in the USA with Master of Sports Performance Psychology. Her major interests are improving performance, the significance of sports student identity, motivation, psychological resilience and coaching psychology.