Psychological Factors in Athletic Injuries

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   Factors in
Athletic Injuries
   Factors in
Athletic Injuries
 Some 3 to 5 million people are
 injured each year in sport and
 Physical factors are the primary
 causes of injury, but psychological
 factors can also contribute.
     How Injuries Happen
Personality Factors
Stress Levels
            Impact of Injury
Overemphasis on acting tough and giving 110%
Failure to distinguish between normal discomfort
and injury pain
“You’re injured” or “you’re worthless” attitude
from coaches/teammates
The greatest stress are often psychological (e.g.,
“fear” of re-injury, shattered hopes or dreams).
          Athletes at Risk
Combination of conditions puts athletes at
greater risk of injury:
– Negative life stresses
– Increase in daily hassles
– Previous injuries
– Poor coping resources
All mediated by athlete’s personality
          Athletes at Risk
Study at University of Wisconsin:
– Study assessed life stress of football players
  at UW
– 9% of players with low life stress experienced
  injuries that season (missed >3 practices or 1
– 50% of players with high life stress
  (personal/family problems) experienced
  injuries that season
        Reactions to Injury
Identity Loss
– When athletes can no longer participate
  because of an injury, they may experience a
  loss of personal identity. That is, an important
  part of themselves is lost, seriously affecting
        Reactions to Injury
Fear and Anxiety
– When injured, athletes can experience high
  levels of fear and anxiety. They worry about
  whether they will recover, if re-injury will occur
  and whether someone will replace them
  permanently in the lineup.
– Because the athlete cannot practice and
  compete, there’s plenty of time for worry.
        Reactions to Injury
Lack of Confidence
– Given the inability to practice and compete,
  and deteriorated physical status, athletes can
  lose confidence after an injury. Lowered
  confidence can result in decreased
  motivation, inferior performance, or additional
  injury because the athlete overcompensates.
   Signs of Poor Adjustment to
         Athletic Injuries
Feelings of anger and confusion
Obsession with the question of when one
can return to play.
Denial (e.g., “The injury is no big deal.”).
Repeatedly coming back too soon and
experiencing re-injury.
Exaggerated bragging about
  Signs of Poor Adjustment to
        Athletic Injuries
Dwelling on minor physical complaints.
Guilt about letting the team down.
Withdrawal from significant others.
Rapid mood swings.
Statements indicating that no matter what
is done, recovery will not occur.
Strategies for Coping with Injury
 2 most common coping strategies are
 problem-focused and emotion-focused
Strategies for Coping with Injury
 – Direct efforts at managing or altering the
   problem that causes the stress
     Ex. Learn about treatment options
     Setting (SMART) goals
     Adhering to rehabilitation
Strategies for Coping with Injury
 Emotion-focused strategies
 – Directed at managing the emotions that are
   experienced as a result of the injury
     Ex. Positive self-talk
     Relaxation techniques
     Imagery to “practice” and relax
 – These strategies involve dealing directly with
   the feelings of the injury
Role of Sport Psychology in Injury
Key Points
 – a holistic approach is needed, emphasizing
   both the healing of the mind and body.
 – psychological factors play an important role in
   injury recovery. (Orlick, 1991)
 – injury treatment should include psychological
   techniques to enhance the healing and
   recovery process.
Role of Sport Psychology in Injury
Build rapport with the injured party.
 – Take the athlete’s perspective, provide
   emotional support, and be realistic but
   positive and optimistic.
 – Educate the injured person about the injury
   and recovery process.
Role of Sport Psychology in Injury
Teach specific coping skills.
 – discuss goal setting, positive self-talk,
   imagery, visualization and relaxation training.
Teach how to cope with setbacks.
Foster social support.
Learn from injured athletes.
Recommendations for Facilitating
   Rehabilitation for Coaches
Faster coach-athlete contact and
Demonstrate positive empathy and
Don’t repeatedly mention injury in training.

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