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How can Sport Psychology help with Injury Rehabilitation?

With the season in full swing and games coming thick and fast it is no wonder that many sports teams are reporting a high numbers of injured players. Take Arsenal Football Club for example who currently have 6 members of their first team unavailable due to injury (The Physio Room, 2017). As well as the physical rehabilitation that needs to take place in order for athletes to be able to bounce back from their injuries, psychological rehabilitation can also be an important factor when returning from an injury.

Whilst suffering from an injury, athletes may suffer from mood disturbance which may influence the psychological health of the athlete. The three most common emotions reported after suffering from an injury are frustration, depression and anger (Crossman, 1997). However, athletes may also report a number of other negative mood states including feeling irritable, miserable, discouraged, uncomfortable, bored, tense, hostile, fatigues and confused (Pearson & Jones, 1992). If not dealt with, these negative moods could go onto impact the athlete’s rehabilitation process and ultimately their return to sport.

By returning to sport when they are not mentally ready an athlete may experience a number of psychological factors including:

  • Decreased confidence which leads to a decline in performance

  • Re-injury or further injury

  • Feelings of stress and anxiety due to lack of confidence in their physical condition

  • Fear of injury and fear of returning to play

So how can a sport psychologist help with an athlete’s injury rehabilitation?

There are a number of tools and techniques that could aid with injury rehabilitation. Firstly, by monitoring and rewarding progress an athlete may be more motivated to comply with their rehabilitation routine. Secondly, by offering social support to the athlete and giving them a new role in the team, the athlete can feel like they are still included and a valued part of the team while they are injured.

There are also a number of psychological techniques that can be used to help an athlete deal with the potential stress of being injured. Stress management techniques such as imagery and effective thought control can be useful to help them remove negative thoughts about their injury and help to recreate positive messages about when they return to sport. Goal setting can also be useful in providing motivation for rehabilitation and also by breaking down long periods of time into more manageable chunks to help the athlete focus on their rehabilitation process.

When referring to the literature around injury and sport psychology, 47% of physiotherapists believe that every injured athlete goes through psychological trauma as a result of their injury (Larson, Starkey & Zaichkowsky, 1996). 24% of these physiotherapists have referred an athlete to for counselling related to their injury and 25% have a sports psychologist as part of their medical team. Despite this research being slightly outdated, it can be assumed that more and more athletes will be using the services of a sport psychologist to help them with their injury rehabilitation process.

If you are suffering from an injury and wondering if sport psychology could help you, please feel free to get in contact with me!


Woking, Surrey

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