Academic journal article Journal of Sport Behavior

Experiences of Coping with Injury in NCAA Division I Athletes from Low-to-Middle Socioeconomic Status Backgrounds

Academic journal article Journal of Sport Behavior

Experiences of Coping with Injury in NCAA Division I Athletes from Low-to-Middle Socioeconomic Status Backgrounds

Article excerpt

Injuries are unfortunate and inevitable occurrences in any sport. Athletes invest a great deal of time towards achieving optimal performance. Because their self-worth is often tied to these performances, they often perceive a long-term injury as a traumatic event (Quinn & Fallon, 2000; Smith, Scott, & Wiese, 1990). On a sociocultural level, intense training regimens, attractive incentives and rewards for successful athletes, dangerous terrain and climatic conditions, and cultures that glorify risk and minimize pain increase the likelihood of injuries occurring (Pargman, 1999), especially in collegiate and professional sports. On the psychological level, managing an athletic injury can be cognitively, behaviorally, and emotionally challenging (Pedersen, 1986). Injured athletes are subject to a number of psychological detriments, such as lowered self-esteem (Smith et al., 1990), mood disturbances (Carson & Polman, 2008; Quinn & Fallon, 1999, 2000; Udry, Gould, Bridges, & Beck, 1997), helplessness (Carson & Polman, 2008), social isolation (Henderson, 1999), and fear of re-injury (Podlog & Dionigi, 2010; Podlog & Eklund, 2006). Consequently, understanding the psychological aspects of injury is crucial as athletes work to rehabilitate and return to play.

Several sport psychology scholars have examined both the psychological predictors of injury (Andersen & Williams, 1988; Williams & Andersen, 1998) and the post-injury responses of athletes (Bianco, Malo, & Orlick, 1999; Hagger, Chatzisarantis, Griffin, & Thatcher, 2005; Quinn & Fallon, 1999, 2000; Rees, Mitchell, Evans, & Hardy, 2010; Tracey, 2003; Walker, Thatcher, & Lavallee, 2007; Wiese-Bjornstal, Smith, Shaffer, & Morrey, 1998). The integrated model of psychological response to sport injury (Wiese-Bjornstal et al., 1998) is one of the most comprehensive frameworks to address the psychological responses to athletic injury and rehabilitation. In this seminal paper, Wiese-Bjornstal and colleagues outlined several situational factors (e.g., type of sport, level of competition, scholarship status, access to rehabilitation services, family influences) and personal factors (e.g., type of injury, history of injuries, personality, gender, age, ethnicity, socioeconomic status [SES]) that influence athletes' cognitive, emotional, and behavioral responses. In turn, these responses are posited to impact the physical and psychosocial recovery outcomes. Ample research has substantiated this point, particularly for the use of coping strategies. Lazarus and Folkman (1984) defined coping as "constantly changing cognitive and behavioral efforts to manage specific external and/or internal demands that are appraised as taxing or exceeding the resources of the person" (p. 141). With regard to athletic injuries, problem-focused coping has been associated with rehabilitation attendance and adherence (Hagger et al., 2005). Also, instrumental coping (i.e., attempts to ease stress by becoming educated about the injury or seeking the advice of health-care providers) has been associated with shorter recovery times (Quinn & Fallon, 2000). Furthermore, injured athletes who utilize social support have been shown to cope more effectively with the demands of rehabilitation (Green & Weinberg, 2001; Rees et al., 2010). Clearly, the coping strategies that athletes employ carry significant implications for both their physical recovery and psychological well-being.

The Influence of SES on Stress and Coping

While numerous scholars (e.g., Albinson & Petrie, 2003; Quinn & Fallon, 1999; Rees et al., 2010; Tracey, 2003; Walker et al., 2007) have investigated various components of the model, and although Wiese-Bjornstal et al. (1998) listed SES as one of several personal factors that influence an athlete's response to injury, this assertion has not been investigated. In his research with African American athletes, Messner (1992) found that young male athletes from lower-class backgrounds were likely to view sport as essential for social mobility since other options of supporting their families were limited. …

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