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©William E. Prentice


When you finish this chapter you will be able to:

  • Discuss how athletes might respond psychologically to an injury.

  • Describe the progressive reactions to injury, dependent on length of rehabilitation.

  • Discuss predictors of injury and interventions.

  • Identify stressors in the athlete's life.

  • Discuss the concept of buffers for stress management.

  • Discuss the importance of goal setting as a means of making the injured athlete compliant with the rehabilitation program.

  • Identify the various considerations in managing the psychological impact of injury.

  • Describe the decision-making process for returning the injured athlete to competition.

When the body is injured, it is likely that the mind is also affected. Research indicates that athletes who experience a negative psychological response to injury have a longer and more difficult period of rehabilitation.7 Therefore, information regarding the effect that injury has on the athlete and the possible psychological care that can be given in the sports setting may facilitate the athlete's return to competition.23

Certainly the sports medicine team can have a significant impact on the course of rehabilitation for the injured athlete (Figure 12–1).3 The manner in which these individuals interact with the injured athlete and how the athlete responds psychologically to injury collectively dictate the course of a rehabilitative program.15 The goal is to get the mind, as well as the body, ready to return to competition.4 If a sport psychologist is available to the athlete, such a person can be of tremendous value in helping the athlete learn to cope with both the psychological and physical stresses associated with an injury.6


A coach, fitness professional, or sports medicine personnel can have a significant impact on how an athlete deals with an injury psychologically. © William E. Prentice

Coaches and other fitness professionals who work with competitive or recreational athletes must have an understanding of the athlete's psychological reaction to injury and how different individuals deal with injury.14 The way a coach or fitness professional chooses to support the injured athlete during the period of rehabilitation can have a significant impact on the course of that process. This chapter addresses the athlete's psychological reaction to injury and suggests what the coach and fitness professional should do to have a positive impact.


Not all athletes deal with injury in the same manner.5,20 One athlete may view an injury as disastrous; another may view it as an opportunity to show courage; and still another athlete may relish the injury to prevent embarrassment over poor performance, provide an escape from a losing team, or discourage a domineering parent.5

Injury Severity Classification


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