Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Sport Injury and Illness: Elite Skiers Describe Their Experiences

Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Sport Injury and Illness: Elite Skiers Describe Their Experiences

Article excerpt

Sport injury has been recognized as both a physical and psychological phenomenon, and over the past 20 years there has been a growing interest in the psychology of sport injury (Gould, Udry, Bridges, & Beck, 1997a, 1997b; Grove & Gordon, 1992; Rose & Jevne, 1993; Smith, Scott, O'Fallon, & Young, 1990; Wiese & Weiss, 1987). The psychological response to injury is of interest for two interrelated reasons: a concern for the athletes' mental health and a concern for the impact of the athletes' mental state on physical recovery. Psychological distress has been linked to treatment nonadherence among athletes (e.g., Gordon, Milios, & Grove, 1991) and, as Fisher (1990) pointed out, this behavior is problematic because it can jeopardize the athletes' recovery. Several authors (e.g., Fisher, Domm, & Wuest, 1988; Taylor & May, 1996) have claimed that the failure to adhere to prescribed treatment regimens is an important problem among injured athletes and that there is a need to develop interventions to increase adherence. Given the relationship between the athletes' affective state and behavior, it is clear that such efforts would be greatly enhanced by an understanding of the psychological factors associated with sport injury and recovery.

Significant in-roads have been made toward gaining a better understanding of the psychology of sport injury. There is now a substantial body of research describing the affective responses of injured athletes and the factors believed to influence these responses. In general, the findings show that the response to injury ranges from mild disappointment to severe depression (Chan & Grossman, 1988; McDonald & Hardy, 1990, Quackenbush & Crossman, 1994) and that injured athletes tend to vacillate between emotional highs and lows throughout recovery (Wiese & Weiss, 1987). The literature also indicates that the response to injury is influenced by a combination of personal and situational factors, such as psychological investment in sport (Brewer, 1994), coping skills (Grove & Gordon, 1992; Rotella & Heyman, 1993), injury severity (Smith et al., 1990), the duration of consequences, and progress in recovery (Wiese-Bjornstal & Smith, 1993; Wiese-Bjornstal, Smith, Shaffer, & Morrey, 1998).

In terms of a conceptual framework to account for such findings, several authors (e.g., Brewer, 1994; Heil, 1993; Wiese-Bjornstal et al., 1998) suggested that athletic injury is best understood via a stress-based model, such as that proposed by Lazarus and Folkman (1984). Lazarus and Folkman claimed that individuals experienced stress when they perceived that the demands associated with personally significant events taxed or exceeded their coping resources. Heil (1993) argued that sport injury was, indeed, a significant event for athletes and was likely to be stressful because it posed threats to their physical, emotional, and social well being. As Heil and other researchers (e.g., Pargman, 1993; Smith et al., 1990) noted, sport injury brings with it a series of consequences, such as physical pain, interruption of valued goals, feelings of loss and disappointment, concerns about the future, and isolation from sport. Confronting these numerous challenges, they explained, could overextend the athletes' resources and, thus, lead to stress.

Stress and coping theory also holds that individuals respond to stress by invoking cognitive and behavioral strategies to master, reduce, or tolerate the demands created by the event (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984). Coping is a dynamic process in that strategies are constantly modified to accommodate changing perceptions of the stressor and any new stressors that may arise. Research has shown that injured athletes use a variety, of coping strategies throughout the recovery process, including setting rehabilitation goals, adopting a positive attitude and outlook, employing positive self-talk, using healing imagery, and making use of social support resources (Gould et al. …

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