How Psychosocial Factors Influence Athletes' Recovery and Rehabilitation From Injury, Including the Return-To-Play Process
The attainment of rehabilitation goals and the prospect of recovery may engender a host of positive emotional responses throughout the course of rehabilitation. It seems that these responses are influenced by a wide array of personal factors (eg, athletic identity, previous injury experience, injury severity, injury type, current injury status) and situational factors (eg, life stress, social support satisfaction, timing of the injury).
In contrast to linear improvement, rehabilitation is often a haphazard process with positives and negatives occurring daily. Consequently, athletes usually benefit from input from all providers throughout the process of returning to play. Unfortunately, athletes often pay the price for poorly coordinated recovery plans within the return-to-play process.
Several other researchers have recognized that the lack of daily physical activity can affect an injured athlete psychologically. For instance, athletes are predisposed to neurotic illness when mandatory deprivation of exercise is necessary because of a preoccupation with fitness or sport. Often times an athlete will use physical activity to cope with stress. When athletes are injured and unable to engage in physical activity they may have difficulty dealing with their daily stresses. Smith (1990) states that “the development of neuroses in fitness fanatics deprived of exercise was at least partially because their life stress prior to injury or illness had been managed by physical activity rather than by articulating emotional concerns.” Furthermore, the injury can actually produce additional stress that may induce emotional disturbance. Hardy (1992) suggests that “the major sources of stress that have been reported by sports performers include fear of failure, concerns about social evaluation by others, lack of readiness to perform and loss of internal control over one’s environment.” Separation from the team takes an emotional toll on injury athletes. Athletes enjoy camaraderie among teammates and they rely on each other for support. Consequently, “an injury that even temporarily halts participation causes tear in the fabric of well- being through which uncomfortable or unacceptable feelings may emerge”.
This will help athletes to obtain a quicker and more successful recovery with their return from injury.
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