Stress management techniques can help reduce sport injuries
The study led by Leeds Beckett University also shows that these kinds of psychological intervention strategies have the potential to reduce injury risk in athletes.
Dr Adam Gledhill, Course Director, Undergraduate Sport and Exercise Science at Leeds Beckett’s Carnegie School of Sport, worked with colleagues from the School of Clinical and Applied Sciences at Leeds Beckett and York St John University to review previous studies that examine the role of psychological interventions in injury prevention. Their work, recently published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, is available here.
Dr Gledhill said: “Injury is one of the leading causes of early retirement from sport. Sports injuries can have significant psychosocial impacts on athletes and can influence their return to sport by decreasing their chance of return to sport or increasing the time taken to return. Injuries can have both financial and performance-related costs for teams; however, psychological interventions are often overlooked.
“Techniques like imagery and self-confidence training, particularly those with a stress management focus are efficient methods of reducing sports injury rates and injury time loss.”
Interventions with stress management and relaxation content are the most commonly used psychological interventions. Techniques that have shown particular effectiveness for injury reduction purposes are Stress Inoculation Training – this is where people are prepared in advance to handle stressful events successfully and with a minimum of upset - and mindfulness.
Dr Gledhill added: “Thirteen out of fourteen studies we reviewed reported fewer injuries and/or shorter time loss, with psychological interventions having a small to large effect on reducing injury, reducing injury rates and/or reducing time lost due to injury.”
“Even low-frequency and short-duration interventions reduced injury rates. There are many possible explanations behind the reduced injury rates or time-loss, including aiding recovery, increasing a sense of wellbeing, altered hormone release, and neurological changes.”
Dr Gledhill is the Course Director for Undergraduate Sport and Exercise Science and the Associate Editor (Psychology of Sport Injury) for the British Journal of Sports Medicine. He also works as a sport scientist supporting athletes, coaches and parents from a range of sports and backgrounds.