Research explores the psychological factors of sports injury rehab
The research paper, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine this month, explored the psychosocial factors of sports injury rehabilitation and was undertaken by Adam Gledhill, a Senior Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Therapy at Leeds Beckett, alongside academics at York St John University.
The research paper, Psychosocial factors associated with outcomes of sports injury rehabilitation in competitive athletes, assessed psychosocial aspects - such as cognitions, emotions and behaviours – and how these related to rehabilitation outcomes, as opposed to previous research which has tended to focus on physical factors.
The researchers found that restoring self-confidence while reducing anxiety and fear increased the likelihood of a successful recovery.
As Adam explained: “Many athletes do not return to their pre-injury level of activity, and even less return to competition. As rehabilitation takes place within social contexts involving many people, we believe that one of the keys to effective rehabilitation lies with psychosocial factors.
“In undertaking this review we were able to demonstrate an association between rehabilitation outcomes and the anxiety and fear of being re-injured. Athletes who can effectively manage anxiety and fear will experience more positive outcomes from rehabilitation. The evidence also suggests that an ability to perceive sport injury rehabilitation as an opportunity for development and growth is associated with more positive rehabilitation outcomes.
“We also found that restoring self-confidence, while at the same time inoculating against emotions of anxiety/fear, appears to increase the likelihood of a successful rehabilitation. Meeting social support needs and employing appropriate coping strategies is critical in facilitating this. At present it seems common for athletes not to fully disclose their injury-related emotions; however we believe that practitioners should consider approaches to improve an athlete’s emotional integrity and regularly monitor psychosocial factors throughout their rehabilitation. Practitioners should enable their athletes to perceive the injury experience as positive, as our research demonstrates that this is related to positive outcomes.”
Dale Forsdyke, Senior Lecturer in Sports Injury Management at York St John, added: “We are delighted to have our systematic review published in such a prestigious and impactful sports medicine journal. From reviewing the empirical evidence we found that there are important psychosocial factors that are associated with various outcomes of sports injury rehabilitation.”
Other key findings included:
• An athlete's psychological readiness to return to play appears to be a product of fear, anxiety, confidence in performing well, and remaining uninjured.
• Being female, young, having a limited experience of injury, negative emotion, and perceptions of isolation are factors related to less successful outcomes of rehabilitation.
• Practitioners need to be aware that injured athletes are emotionally vulnerable, and that their emotional integrity may be questionable during rehabilitation.
• Practitioners shouldn't assume that physical and psychosocial recovery from injury occurs within the same timeframe.
It is hoped that the review will improve how practitioners work with injured athletes and inform future research projects in this area.
Adam Gledhill is a Senior Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Therapy with extensive experience teaching within further and higher education. He is currently working towards a PhD focusing on psychosocial factors associated with talent development in female soccer.
Adam has experience of applied work with a range of athletes from a variety of sports, including football, basketball, rugby and track and field athletics where he has developed an appreciation for conducting his applied work from an interdisciplinary, client-centred perspective. Notable roles within these have included working as Head of Sport Science in an elite women’s football setting and as Head of Player Psychosocial Development in a Football Association Licensed Girl’s Centre of Excellence. Adam has particular interests in the preparation of athletes for competitive environments, whilst believing that an athlete’s state of wellbeing is often central to this.
To view the full research paper please visit http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/early/2016/02/17/bjsports-2015-094850.short