A systematic review of the psychological factors associated with returning to sport following injury. BJSM 2013 Nov

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Abstract

Background The prime focus of research on sports injury has been on physical factors. This is despite our understanding that when an athlete sustains an injury it has psychosocial as well as physical impacts. Psychosocial factors have been suggested as prognostic influences on the outcomes of rehabilitation. The aim of this work was to address the question: are psychosocial factors associated with sports injury rehabilitation outcomes in competitive athletes?

Study design

Mixed studies systematic review (PROSPERO reg.CRD42014008667).

Method

Electronic database and bibliographic searching was undertaken from the earliest entry until 1 June 2015. Studies that included injured competitive athletes, psychosocial factors and a sports injury rehabilitation outcome were reviewed by the authors. A quality appraisal of the studies was undertaken to establish the risk of reporting bias.

Results

25 studies were evaluated that included 942 injured competitive athletes were appraised and synthesised. Twenty studies had not been included in previous reviews. The mean methodological quality of the studies was 59% (moderate risk of reporting bias). Convergent thematic analysis uncovered three core themes across the studies: (1) emotion associated with rehabilitation outcomes; (2) cognitions associated with rehabilitation outcomes; and (3) behaviours associated with rehabilitation outcomes. Injury and performance-related fears, anxiety and confidence were associated with rehabilitation outcomes. There is gender-related, age-related and injury-related bias in the reviewed literature.

Conclusions

Psychosocial factors were associated with a range of sports injury rehabilitation outcomes. Practitioners need to recognise that an injured athlete’s thoughts, feelings and actions may influence the outcome of rehabilitation.

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