Sport injury is characterised by a variety of physical and psychological stressors that can have extremely adverse effects on injured athletes (Mitchell et al., 2014). Appraisal of, and coping with, these stressors can determine the success of athletes’ rehabilitation and ultimately, their readiness to return to sport. Psychological readiness in-turn has important implications for athletes’ return to sport, by, for example, reducing re-injury anxiety and improving post-injury performance levels (Podlog et al., 2015). A lack of psychological readiness can lead to athletes returning prematurely and increase the potential for re-injury – both of which can have lasting implications for an athlete’s continued participation, health, and well-being. Despite this, little to no research has investigated the antecedents of psychological readiness, or the rehabilitation processes that contribute to it.
Separately, personality, coping strategies and social support have all been associated with rehabilitation adherence – which is important because rehabilitation adherence appears to be key to psychological readiness to return to sport (e.g., Hilliard et al., 2013; Ivarsson et al., 2017). However, less is known about the contribution of, and complex relationships between personality, coping strategies (in particular social support), and rehabilitation adherence, or the appraisal process through which they are likely to exert their effects. Such insight is essential to ensure athletes are psychologically ready to return to sport and do not fall victim to the detrimental outcomes associated with a lack of it.
The research will comprise three studies:
Study 1 – distribution of a series of questionnaires to athletes engaged in rehabilitation programmes, to construct and test a conceptual
model of the relationships between variables of interest.
Study 2 – social support intervention with injured athletes during rehabilitation, to establish causal relationships between variables assessed in Study 1.
Study 3 – large-scale qualitative study consisting of interviews with athletes in Study 2 and a significant other (e.g., parent, coach, teammate, spouse), to provide further insight into the mechanisms underlying the reported intervention effects in Study 2, and the potential interactions between support providers and recipients.
This research has the potential to: (a) shape the use of specific intervention strategies to expedite successful recovery and return to physical activity/sport/work; (b) improve clinician effectiveness; (c) enhance patient satisfaction; (d) foster improved return-to-sport performance status; and (e) inform efficiency gains in health care provision through enhanced rehabilitation adherence.