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High-Performance Mindfulness: The Missing Link To DeMarcus Cousins’ Recovery

Jake Rauchbach discusses DeMarcus Cousins and one of the under-explored, but more critical aspects of the injury recovery process.



Last week, DeMarcus Cousins sustained another career-threatening injury, tearing his ACL during a pickup game in Las Vegas.

Cousins, who battled back from a ruptured Achilles tendon this past season, is now in jeopardy of missing a big chunk of the upcoming season for his third time in as many years.

He is expected to miss major time for a third straight season due to a lower leg injury. Before tearing his left Achilles on Jan. 26 2018, Cousins’ durability was never really in question. Before the initial injury, the big-man missed over 20 games just once in a season.

Virtually every year, we see stories similar to Cousins’. A player who, at one time in his career had little to no history of injury, gradually becomes engulfed in a seemingly chronic and potentially career-ending pattern for injury, Derrick Rose being a prime example of this.

A common thought for chronic injury issues points back to the physical or structural aspect. Some of the most common theories as to why players experience these setbacks are generally due to pre-disposition, overcompensation, and an over-ambitious goal for recovery.

With any injury type, there are obvious physical factors at play. However, a vital and under-explored aspect of the recovery process could be inhibiting these players’ recovery process.

The Mental Factor

The mind can affect the injury recovery process. The mental chatter and thoughts that occur when people move through recovery often have the effect of hindering the process.

When this happens, you can often see a slowdown in the recovery process for the player. This can consequently cause structural weakness in other parts of the body. Rose and Cousins could be prime examples of this.

This mental aspect if left unaddressed can create a nasty challenge, consequentially making players susceptible to further injury. It is imperative that athletes find a way to break to overcome this challenge.


The specific event of rupturing an Achilles tendon or tearing an ACL can easily be remembered by a player.

In Rose’s case, his first major injury may have occurred when he tore his ACL during the 2012-2013 season. Dr. Michael Casale, speaking about Rose, said:

“His injury must have caused so much mental trauma. The neuroscience part of me comes out and starts to think about, as far as the brain rewiring, it must be so unbelievably impactful to have that one moment change the way you think about yourself and your environment.”

Considering his past injury history, and the fact that some like Dr. Casale within the medical community believe that Rose’s injury may have caused psychological damage, it is not a stretch to think there has been a very real mental element at play.

In Cousins’ case, he has sustained two major leg injuries in a relatively short period. It is generally challenging for big men with severe lower leg injuries to return to the court better than when they left it. Cousins could have his work cut out for him.

Directly addressing these types of injury challenges could help players like Rose and Cousins move forward more efficiently throughout their recovery.

The Process

So what might be the next correct step in supporting this process?

Mental Performance tools that help to improve conscious mental focus and confidence could help players like Cousins and Rose more effectively move through their recovery process.

Approaching recovery in this manner helps to provide clarity and focus for the athlete’s mind. Frequently, an option that has been shown to really help players, are mental skills that supplement physical recovery.

For players like Cousins and Rose, there may be nothing more vital at this stage in their careers.

Providing support in this area may be the key for Cousins, Rose and players like them challenged with similar injuries.

Addressing the mental side could be the way for doing so – and could be a game-changer for players coming back from injury.

Jake Rauchbach is an Integrated Player Development Coach, specializing in High-Performance Mindfulness. He has coached professional and Division-1 basketball. He is the founder of The MindRight Pro® Program and consults on the Olympic, collegiate and professional levels. Follow him on Instagram @mindright_pro and twitter @mindrightpro

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