Role of psychologists in sports injury

An article in the British Journal of Nursing uses the case study of an 18-year-old track athlete with a chronic Achilles tendinopathy to identify risk factors associated with training for major athletic events, such as the forthcoming Olympic Games. It also presents evidence for adopting a multidisciplinary approach to the treatment and management of athletic injury, addressing the physical aspects of the injury, as well as the psychological needs of the athlete.

The athlete's GP and practice nurse, as well as a podiatrist and sport psychologist, were all involved in providing an accurate clinical diagnosis, effective physical intervention, and psychological skills training to address emotional issues and encourage adherence to the rehabilitation programme. Nurses, in both secondary and primary care, can play a crucial role: in this case, the practice nurse recognised the adverse impact that the injury was having on the athlete's emotional wellbeing before making a referral to a trained sport psychologist.

Professor David Lavallee from the University of Stirling, a Chartered Psychologist, says:

“Sport psychologists have a role to play both in preventing sports injuries and also in their treatment.  Consider research has been conducted showing how life stress and chronic daily problems, along with personality factors such as pessimism, explanatory style and hardiness, can predict injury occurrence.  There have been developments in recent years of a psychological curriculum for physiotherapists and others who can provide support to injured athletes.”