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How do we know if an athlete is mentally ready to sport following an injury?


When an athlete suffers an injury, it can be easy to see when they’re physically ready to return to sport, but how do you tell when they’re mentally ready?

A senior lecturer at Leeds Beckett is part of a team that has come up with three key elements that practitioners can consider when addressing psychological readiness to return to sport. The research has been published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine and can be found here.

Explaining what steps should be taken to ensure an athlete is psychologically ready to return to sport, Senior lecturer at Carnegie School of Sport, Adam Gledhill said: “There are three key elements in psychological readiness for return to sport decision-making.

“Firstly, sports injury practitioners should be empowered to confidently consider the psychological aspects – an empowered practitioner is better able to appreciate the role of psychology within sports injury and use the knowledge to inform referrals to appropriate professionals.

“You need to know your athlete. Practitioners and athletes share significant interactions before an injury and during a phased return. Knowledge, understanding and rapport develop through these interactions and this working knowledge of the athlete can be invaluable. Tools may suggest an athlete is psychologically ready to return but the knowledge of the athlete might suggest otherwise and vice versa.

“Finally, the decision should be collaborative and involve practitioners, coaches, parents or carers and of course the athlete. Considering all of the collective perspectives of all those involved provides a more robust picture of an athlete’s psychological readiness.”

Psychological readiness to return to sport is not commonly monitored in practice, despite there being specific instruments available. Many practitioners may feel underprepared to work within this area or might think it’s outside the scope of their practice.

Characteristics of an athlete who is psychologically ready to return to sport are multifaceted and include realistic expectations, high levels of self-efficacy and low levels of anxiety. More information about psychosocial factors associated rehabilitation outcomes can be found here.

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