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Exploring the psychological aspects of sport injury
Exploring the psychological aspects of sport injury

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Session 1: Sport injury and psychology – what’s the link?


Being injured and missing the whole athletics season was devastating. I’d worked so hard and then I had nothing to show for it. I missed training, I missed my training group, and most importantly I missed being an athlete. I felt empty.

(Lois, sprinter)

I was under a lot stress at work before I got injured and I’m sure that was a contributing factor to the injury happening. I also found being injured and not being able to go to the gym so frustrating. It made me very unhappy and my family and friends became really worried about me.

(Travis, exercise participant)

Have you ever had a sport injury? If so, you are not alone. Injury is a relatively common occurrence among sport and exercise participants (Peterson and Renstrom, 2016). It is difficult to obtain accurate information about the exact rates of injury occurrence but an NHS report suggested that 2.3% of unplanned Accident and Emergency attendances (388,515 visits) in England were as a result of sport injuries (NHS, 2012). Obviously, this figure does not take into account the vast number of injuries that do not require emergency hospital treatment and so the actual figure will be much greater. A study of the Great Britain 2014 Winter Olympic Team revealed that 39% of the 56-member team experienced an injury during the 2014 Winter Olympics – an extremely high proportion over the 18-day period (Palmer-Green and Elliott, 2015).

An image of a woman standing with her side against a dark wall with crutches.
Figure 1 Sport injuries are fairly common

Traditionally, the study of sport injury has focused on the physical aspects of injury. More recently, however, the psychological aspects of sport injury have also been recognised. As the quotes from Lois and Travis indicate the psychological aspects of injury can be a significant part of the injury process and return to sport/activity. In this session we will give a brief overview of the role of psychological factors in sport injury, before exploring these in more detail in later sessions.

By the end of this session, you should be able to:

  • understand how psychology relates to sport injury
  • recognise that psychological factors can impact at two key points: pre-injury and post-injury.

The Open University would really appreciate a few minutes of your time to tell us about yourself and your expectations for the course before you begin, in our optional start-of-course survey [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] . Participation will be completely confidential and we will not pass on your details to others.