Academic journal article Journal of Sport Behavior

Psychosocial Factors as Predictors of Ballet Injuries: Interactive Effects of Life Stress and Social Support

Academic journal article Journal of Sport Behavior

Psychosocial Factors as Predictors of Ballet Injuries: Interactive Effects of Life Stress and Social Support

Article excerpt

Like athletes in competitive sports, ballet dancers are an "athletic" population that performs in a highly demanding environment and that is at high risk for physical injury. Because the physical and psychological skills required for success in this profession rival and in some cases exceed those of other athletic populations, ballet dancers have attracted recent empirical attention by sports medicine researchers (Bergfeld, 1982; Garrick & Requa, 1993; Hamilton, Hamilton, Meltzer, Marshall, & Molnar, 1989). One topic of interest has been injuries sustained in ballet. A recent epidemiological study of ballet injuries by Garrick and Requa (1993) revealed that over a 3-year period, 104 dancers in a professional company sustained a total of 309 injuries of sufficient severity to result in medical costs of nearly $400,000. Of particular interest was the fact that 23% of the dancers accounted for 52% of ali injuries, suggesting potential injury vulnerability factors. If vulnerability factors do exist, many of them are undoubtedly physical and biomechanical in nature, but some might also be psychosocial. Garrick and Requa highlighted the need for additional research to identify factors that might place certain subgroups of dancers at increased risk of injury. This study focuses on several psychosocial factors that appear to serve as injury vulnerability factors in this population.

Over the past two decades, life stress has been studied in relation to a host of social, psychological, and medical outcomes, including injuries (Hamilton et al., 1989, Passer & Seese, 1983; Petrie, 1992; Schroeder & Costa, 1984; Smith, Smoll, & Ptacek, 1990; Zautra, Guarnacchia, Reich, & Dohrenwend, 1988). Research has also focused on other psychosocial factors that might serve as stress-vulnerability and stress-resiliency factors and thereby exacerbate or attenuate the impact of life stress on physical and psychological well-being. Identification of such variables not only can help to identify psychological processes that may mediate event-outcome relations, but also can provide a basis for identifying at-risk subgroups toward whom intervention programs might be targeted.

A moderator variable is one that influences the nature, the direction, or the strength of a relation between a predictor variable, such as life stress, and a criterion variable, such as physical well-being (Baron & Kenny, 1986). In the study of life stress and its impact on well-being, social support (the subjective belief that there exist sources of support, help, and caring within one's social network) has emerged as a significant moderator variable in a number of studies. It appears that high social support is capable of buffering the impact of stressful life events, whereas low social support may exacerbate their impact (Cohen & Syme, 1985; Isaacson & Janzon, 1986; Petrie, 1992; Sarason, Sarason, & Pierce, 1990; Sarason, Sarason, Potter, & Antoni, 1985). Several recent prospective studies of athletic populations suggest that social support can influence the degree to which life stress is related to athletic injuries (Petrie, 1992; Smith et al., 1990). In these studies, self-report measures of recent life stressors were unrelated to subsequent injuries until social support levels were also taken into account. Petrie (1992) found that for starting football players low in social support, life stress was positively related to number of severe injuries, injury time loss, and number of games missed. In a study of male and female high school athletes in a variety of sports, Smith, Smoll, and Ptacek (1990) found that social support operated in combination with psychological coping skills and that in athletes low in both social support and coping skills, differences in negative life events accounted for nearly 30% of the injury time loss variance.

The stressful nature of the ballet environment has been well documented (Bergfeld, 1982; Hamilton et al. …

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