Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Social Support and Recovery from Sport Injury: Elite Skiers Share Their Experiences

Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Social Support and Recovery from Sport Injury: Elite Skiers Share Their Experiences

Article excerpt

Research suggests that social support can be an important coping resource for athletes recovering from sport injury. Few studies have investigated this claim, however. To address this gap in the literature, 10 elite downhill skiers who had recovered from serious sport injuries were interviewed about the sources of stress associated with injury and the role of social support in recovery from spurt injury. This paper presents the social support findings that emerged from this research (1). Content analyses of the social-support data revealed that the skiers needed various types of emotional, informational, and tangible support from the occurrence of injury through the return to full activity. Members of the treatment team, the ski team, and the skiers 'home support networks provided social support throughout these phases. In general, the skiers were satisfied with the support received, indicating that it reduced distress and kept them motivated throughout recovery. The findings from this research have implicati ons for the design of sport injury interventions.

Key words: alpine skiing, athletic injury coping, rehabilitation

Over the past decade, there has been a growing interest in the role of social support in recovery from sport injury (e.g., Ford & Gordon, 1993; Hardy, Grace, & Burke, 1999; Johnston & Carroll, 1998; Udry, 1996, 1997). Research in this area has, for the most part, been driven by two major forces: the recognition of a need for psychosocial intervention in sport injury rehabilitation and the belief that the positive relationship between social support and improved recovery outcomes observed in nonsport populations can be extended to sport populations (Hardy et al., 1999). Of particular interest to sport injury researchers is whether and how social support can serve to: (a) reduce the distress experienced by injured athletes, (b) increase athlete motivation in rehabilitation, and (c) improve treatment adherence. Such information would be beneficial to professionals working with injured athletes.

The need for psychosocial intervention in the sport injury and rehabilitation setting is well documented in the literature. Several authors (e.g., Bianco, Malo, & Orlick, 1999; Gould, Udry, Bridges, & Beck, 1997; Heil, 1993) reported that the stresses of injury may overwhelm athletes' resources and compromise their coping ability severely. WieseBjomstal, Smith, Shaffer, and Morrey (1998) explained that difficulties coping with injury may be manifested cognitively, emotionally, and behaviorally. Rehabilitation difficulties observed in athletes who do not cope well with injury include lack of motivation, noncompliance, and missed appointments (Gordon, Milios, & Grove, 1991).

Poor treatment adherence is problematic, because it can jeopardize treatment success and may unnecessarily prolong the athletes' return to physical health and sport (Fisher, 1990). For most athletes, these types of outcomes would be unsatisfactory and, consequently, lead to further distress and motivational deficits in rehabilitation. Athletes who do not cope well with injury risk being caught in a downward spiral of poor motivation leading to poor adherence, which can, in turn, lead to poor rehabilitation outcomes (Fisher & Hoisington, 1993)

Several researchers (e.g., Duda, Smart, & Tappe, 1989; Ford & Gordon, 1993; Hardy & Grace, 1993; Udry 1996) intimated that by acting as a resource to help stimulate and sustain both emotion- and problem-focused coping forms, social support can help injured athletes avoid or break free of the negative cycle of poor coping leading to poor rehabilitation outcomes. Shumaker and Brownell (1984) defined social support as "...an exchange of resources between at least two or more individuals perceived by the provider or the recipent to be intended to enhance the well-being of the recipent" (p. 13). Hardy and Crace (1993) described several activities that are believed to fulfill support functions; they include the provision of listening support, emotional comfort and challenge, shared social reality, technical challenge and appreciation, and personal and material assistance. …

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