Athletes' use of mental skills during sport injury rehabilitation
Arvinen-Barrow M, Clemen D, Hamson-Utley JJ, Zakrajsek RA, Lee S, Kamphoff C, Lintunen T, Hemmings B, and Martin SB. J Sports Rehab. 2015. 24, 189-197.
Take Home Message: Of 1283 survey respondents, only 27% of athletes reported using mental skills such as goal setting, positive self-talk, imagery, and relaxation. Of the 249 respondents who used mental skills 72% reported they felt it helped expedite their recovery process.
The use of mental skills (e.g., imagery, goal setting) during rehabilitation from injury is beneficial to athletes. Clinicians could optimize and integrate mental skills into rehabilitation programs if they better understood what skills are most utilized, and who teaches these skills. Therefore, Arvinen-Barrow and colleagues completed a cross-sectional survey study to determine what mental skills are used during rehabilitation, and who taught the athletes the mental skill. The authors surveyed a total of 1283 athletes (62% male, 12 to 36+ years of age, 699 American, 584 European) ranging from college student-athletes to elite athletes. The survey was changed to include language which was most familiar to surveyed athletes (i.e., physiotherapist for European athletes, athletic trainer for American athletes) and included both open-ended and close-ended questions. Overall 346 (27%) of athletes responded that they have used mental skills during the rehabilitation of an athletic injury. Of these 346 athletes, 249 (72%) responded that using mental skills helped them recover faster. A significantly higher number of American athletes reported using mental skills than European athletes (33% versus 23%). The top mental skills reported were goal setting, positive self-talk, imagery, and relaxation (47%, 33%, 32%, and 24% respectively). Respondents further reported that sports medicine personnel (athletic trainers and physiotherapists) were most likely (28%) to teach athletes to incorporate mental skills into their rehabilitation. Other sources included coaches (15%), themselves (8%), family members (8%), and sports psychologists (3%).
Overall, the survey results of this study present some interesting information for clinicians. Firstly, a relatively low number of athletes reported using mental skills. This result is especially interesting when one considers that a high percentage (72%) of those who used mental skills felt it was beneficial to their outcomes. Furthermore, sports psychologists, the professionals most equipped to teach and help athletes hone mental skills, were the lowest reported source of training. This is most likely due to limited access to sports psychologists. Also of note, sports medicine professionals were the most common source of teaching mental skills despite little or no standards of training in teaching mental skills. Therefore, the current study suggests that injured athletes may benefit from professional help with mental skills. Thus, sports medicine personnel may want to consider having a certified sports psychologist as part of their sports medicine team. Furthermore, sports medicine personnel may also benefit from seeking continuing education opportunities that would better equip them to teach mental skills.
Questions for Discussion: Do you incorporate mental skills into your rehabilitation programs? What kind of access do your athletes have to certified sports psychologists?
Written by: Kyle Harris
Reviewed by: Jeffrey Driban
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