Integrated Model of Psychological Response to Sport Injury

The majority of research within the Sports Medicine Psychology Lab is based on the integrated model of psychological response to sport injury (Wiese-Bjornstal et al., 1998). According to this model, pre-injury factors (e.g., personality, a history of stressors, coping resources; Williams & Andersen, 1998) as well as both personal and situational factors influence athletes’ cognitive appraisal (i.e., thoughts) of a sport-related injury. The model suggests that these “thoughts” of sport-related injuries then influence both emotional and behavioral responses in a reciprocal and ongoing process to, ultimately, impact (positively or negatively) physical and psychological recovery outcomes.

For example, a swimmer, who is a self-proclaimed perfectionist, incurs a fourth shoulder injury of her collegiate career. Her perfectionistic tendencies cause her to set extremely high standards for herself and, therefore, a thought related to the injury could include, “If I’m not 100% in a week, I will never be competitive again.” As a result of this thought, she feels frustrated and a sense of urgency. This emotional response causes her to approach rehabilitation with a high level of intensity (behavioral response) and do everything that her trainers asks her to do as well as additional activities outside of the training room that she believes with help her recovery. After a week of these behaviors, she has not noticed an improvement in her shoulder pain and thinks, “this isn’t getting better, I’ll never be a good swimmer again.” As a result of this thought, she gets depressed and begins to skip rehabilitation sessions. This process of interactions between cognitive appraisals, emotional responses, and behavioral responses continues over time and, as the example highlights, impacts both physical and psychological recovery outcomes.

For those interested, the document linked above provides a more detailed explanation of the integrated model of psychological response to sport injury. While a lot of the variables outlined in the model have been supported by research, some components still need to be tested. Our goal in the Sports Medicine Psychology Lab is to provide further support for the various components of the model.

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