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

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1 Psychology, coping and outcomes

The cognitive appraisal models you examined in Session 5 show a clear link between emotional responses to injury and behavioural responses (e.g. adherence/non-adherence). Research shows that these responses influence rehabilitation outcomes (Brewer and Redmond, 2017). Sport injury rehabilitation outcomes can be defined as ‘outcome measures of success’ – these include readiness to return to sport, treatment satisfaction and rate of recovery (Brewer and Redmond, 2017).

Research has been conducted to explore the impact of psychological responses to sport injury. A systematic review of the literature (Forsdyke et al., 2016) which examined twenty-five research studies concluded that various psychological factors are associated with a range of rehabilitation outcomes. For example, negative mood was found to be associated with negative rehabilitation outcomes.

A group of female football players are gathered around an injured player who is lying on the pitch.
Figure 2 Psychological factors and rehabilitation outcomes

The ‘coping style’ the individual adopts in response to injury can also have an impact on rehabilitation outcomes. Udry (1997) identified four types of coping:

  • Instrumental coping – attempting to reduce the source of stress through activities such as finding out more about the injury or listening to the advice of the physiotherapist (sometimes referred to as ‘problem-focused coping’).
  • Negative emotion coping – preoccupation with the emotional consequences of a stressor such as feeling anxious or worrying about an injury (sometimes known as ‘emotion-focused coping’).
  • Distraction coping – thinking about or engaging in other activities to avoid thinking about the injury (sometimes referred to as ‘avoidance coping’).
  • Palliative coping – engaging in ‘self-help’ activities aimed at providing a soothing effect or reducing the unpleasantness of an injury, such as getting more sleep.

Unsurprisingly, instrumental coping is associated with more positive behavioural responses (e.g. better rehabilitation adherence) and rehabilitation outcomes (Udry, 1997).

To help you further examine the links between psychological factors and rehabilitation outcomes, you will now re-visit our case studies Lois and Travis to see how their reactions affect their recoveries.