Sports psychologist Muhammad MD backed Kento Momota to recover from the post-traumatic stress after being involved in an accident in Malaysia on Monday morning.
The world number one is recovering at the Putrajaya Hospital after the van transporting him and other badminton officials crashed into the back of a trailer en route to the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, just hours after he won the Malaysia Masters title.
The accident also claimed the life of driver N. Bavan.
Kesemua yang telibat dalam perlanggaran awal pagi semalam termasuk pemain badminton nombor satu dunia dari Jepun, Kento Momota, kini beransur pulih di Hospital Putrajaya - Persatuan Badminton Malaysia (BAM) pic.twitter.com/F36lBVMq1p— BERNAMA Radio (@bernamaradio) January 13, 2020
Although Momota will recover from his external injuries in a few weeks, questions linger on the psychological blow that may affect the Japanese star.
"These incidents are traumatic. Sometimes individuals can be severely affected, and this can even lead to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
"An individual may develop a real fear of getting into cars, or they might have flashbacks and trouble sleeping way after the event has happened.
"But a lot of it comes down to the individual, and also the support around them. Traumatic events also present an opportunity for post-traumatic growth, where a performer like Momota may become even better in court and as a person.
"In Momota’s case, he will be happy to come away rather unscathed. He will be grateful for his life, and this is most important," Muhammad told Stadium Astro.
The Englishman, who has worked at the National Sports Institute, consults many elite athletes including shuttlers, both local and international.
Muhammad, who now runs his own firm MD Performance Psychology in Malaysia, said Momota’s psychological recovery would be aided by his strong support system.
"Park Joo-bong [Japan national head coach] was there with him at the hospital, and was worried about his welfare. The other officials were injured too. They experienced this event together.
"Things like this tend to bring people closer together, I’m sure that they will be united as a team and get through this together," he added.
Muhammad also hopes a psychologist will be available to support Momota and the others if necessary.
"I’m not sure if the Nippon Badminton Association have psychologists available, but it is common in elite sports.
Sometimes, people who survive in accidents may be left with 'survivor guilt', where they feel guilty that they survived while someone else has passed away. It is important to have people to talk to in times like this.
"With proper mindset and care, Momota will overcome this. He could be even more fired up to win the Olympics. Some of the world’s top athletes like Serena Williams and Andy Murray have faced adversities and gone on to achieve so much.
"But for now, the next two weeks are important for him to rest and recuperate well," said Muhammad.
Momota is expected to be discharged from hospital on Wednesday.