3 The role of sport psychology intervention
The use of sport psychology techniques can be helpful in both the prevention and the treatment of sports injuries. The next activity considers how sport psychology can assist in both of these areas.
Activity 4 Sport psychology intervention and sports injury
- Based on what you learned in Section 1, how do you think sport psychology can be used to prevent injury?
- Based on what you learned in Section 2, how do you think sport psychology can be used to aid rehabilitation from injury?
- Watch the video below of 2016 Olympic hockey champion Helen Richardson-Walsh and make a list of some of the psychological strategies she used to aid her recovery from injury.
- As much of what was discussed in Section 1.2 focused on the links between stress and injury risk, it would seem logical that the use of stress management techniques could help to reduce the risk of injury. This has been supported by various research studies. For example, Johnson et al. (2005) found that a stress management programme significantly reduced the number of injuries that developed among a group of soccer players. It is plausible to suggest, then, that Jody’s risk of injury may have been reduced had she utilised stress management techniques.
- If certain psychological reactions to injury can have a negative effect on rehabilitation and rehabilitation outcomes, any intervention designed to reduce such reactions could potentially be of benefit. The specific interventions that can be used are shown in Box 1.
- Helen describes three key strategies that she used, all of which are discussed in Box 1. Firstly, she used goal-setting to help her focus. Secondly, she visualised herself achieving her goal of becoming Olympic champion (imagery), and finally she used a blog as a way of sharing her experience and talking to other people (social support).
Box 1 Sport psychology interventions
Imagery, the process of creating or recreating a scenario in the mind’s eye, can be used in several different ways during injury. It can be used to practise physical skills when physical practice is not possible, to reduce stress and anxiety, and to help manage pain (e.g. by acting as a distraction during painful treatments). There is also some evidence to suggest that imagining the injured tissues healing can actually speed up the healing process.
Setting short- and long-term goals for recovery, return to training/competition and day-to-day rehabilitation can help focus athletes’ attention, keep them motivated and increase their adherence.
The occurrence of an injury can lead to negative thoughts. The use of positive self-talk can help to develop a positive attitude towards rehabilitation.
Relaxation techniques can help to ease the stress and anxiety that may be a consequence of injury. They can also help to relieve tension in the injured area.
Social support can mediate some of the psychological stresses of being injured. For example, some of the negative consequences of injury, such as loneliness and loss of identity, occur because contact is lost with team-mates and/or coaches when an athlete is injured. This could be alleviated by maintaining contact, by, for example, an athlete undertaking their rehabilitation exercises alongside team practice sessions.