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Psychology of Injury

Injury is an occupational hazard for athletes. Although almost all athletes have been injured during their career (and some frequently) dealing with injury is still a challenge for athletes, coaches and teams. In particular if that injury has serious consequences in terms of participation in a major event or even more seriously may have consequences for career termination. This is illustrated in the quotes below:

‘When I injured my shoulder, I couldn’t do anything. No work-outs, nothing, I was angry, moody, frustrated.” Tennis player Steffi Graf (cited in Moran, 2004, p. 253).

“A bleak period in my professional life had changed me considerably even if I hadn’t been fully aware of what was happening or what it meant. Time spent alone helped me figure myself out.” Footballer Roy Keane (cited in Moran, 2004, p. 253).

Because, sport psychologists may find themselves having to deal with injured clients understanding the role of psychological factors in the injury process is clearly an important area of research. Psychological factors may impact the likelihood of an injury occurring. For example, changes in physical tension can result from the stress response and make movement patterns less fluid predisposing an athlete to injury (Williams & Andersen, 1998). A second area of research has been to explore the psychological responses of athletes to injury. A total of 47% of certified athletic trainers surveyed by Larson et al. (1996) believed that every injured athlete suffered psychological trauma. Of course while athletes may be physically ready to return to competition they may not be psychologically

ready. Fear of re-injury may be present for the athlete who has just recovered from injury (Heil, 1993). Over the next few tasks we will explore in more detail the psychological responses to injury and the psychological challenges present in returning to competition. Importantly, we will also discuss in more detail the efficacy of strategies proposed to help deal with negative psychological responses to injury or in expediting recovery from injury.