Sports Medicine Research: In the Lab & In the Field: Athletes with Concussion or Orthopedic Injury Have Similar Social Support Usage and Anxiety Levels (Sports Med Res)


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Athletes with Concussion or Orthopedic Injury Have Similar Social Support Usage and Anxiety Levels

Postinjury anxiety and social support among collegiate athletes: a comparison between orthopedic injuries and concussions.

Covassin T, Crutcher B, Bleecker A, Heiden EO, Dailey A, and Yang J. J. Athl Training. 2014; 49(2):000-000.

Take Home Message: Collegiate athletes who sustained a concussion or an orthopedic injury use their social support networks similarly during the healing process. While the two groups have similar anxiety levels, patients with a perceived higher level of social support appear to have lower levels of postinury anxiety.

Despite the high prevalence of both concussive and orthopedic injuries sustained each year, little is understood regarding the anxiety level and social support used by these athletes. A better understanding of the similarities and differences between these 2 groups would allow clinicians to better render comprehensive care to their patients. Therefore, Covassin and colleagues compared the anxiety and social support of 63 athletes with concussions with a matched group of 63 athletes with orthopaedic injuries (matched by sex, sport, and injury severity). The authors selected the athletes from a study of 525 athletes from 2 Big Ten universities. Athletes completed a baseline survey to assess demographic information, history of injury, and trait anxiety. All 126 athletes completed a follow-up survey within 1 week of sustaining the injury. The authors assessed anxiety and social support via the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory and the modified 6-Item Social Support Questionnaire, respectively. Overall, both concussed and orthopedic injury patients utilized their social support networks similarly, relying on family (89% vs. 87%, respectively), friends (78% vs. 84%), teammates (65% vs. 65%), athletic trainers (48% vs. 57%), and coaches (47% vs. 51%). On average, the patients with an orthopaedic injury reported more satisfaction than those with a concussion when it came to support from family, athletic trainers, and teammates. Both groups exhibited no difference in anxiety (trait or state) but satisfaction with social support was related with less postinjury state anxiety levels.

Ultimately, this study supports the need for clinicians to assess and understand their role in the rehabilitation process to improve mental and physical health. While all athletes used their social support systems in similar fashions, 2 messages can be taken away from these results. One, clinicians play a significant role in our athlete’s support system as identified by the Social Support Questionnaire. Secondly, the perceived social support network of an athlete may influence their postinjury anxiety levels. As clinicians, we should be aware of this. Perhaps even measuring athlete’s perceived social support could help clinicians identify an athlete who may need extra social support during recovery. This could lead to better comprehensive care for our athletes and perhaps a faster and happier return to activity.

Questions for Discussion: Would you consider measuring athlete’s perceived social support? How do you play a role in your athlete’s social support system following injury?

Written by: Kyle Harris
Reviewed by: Jeffrey Driban

Related Posts:
A Single Minor Traumatic Brain Injury Leads to Long-term Learning and Memory Deficits

Covassin, T., Crutcher, B., Bleecker, A., Heiden, E., Dailey, A., & Yang, J. (2014). Postinjury Anxiety and Social Support Among Collegiate Athletes: A Comparison Between Orthopaedic Injuries and Concussions Journal of Athletic Training DOI: 10.4085/1062-6059-49.2.03


Aaron said...

This was a very interesting article from the perspective of an athletic trainer. I often see first-hand the differences in social support an athlete receives from coaches, professors, teammates, etc. based on their injuries. I agree with the point made within the discussion that athletes with orthopedic injuries may warrant more tangible social support due to the physical nature of their injury, while concussions tend to remain an “invisible” injury.
I believe through education this discrepancy can be corrected. Through media attention and current research, the general understanding of concussions by professors, coaches, parents etc. has greatly improved in recent years. Many now see concussions as more than just getting your bell rung. Due to this, I have seen an improvement in social support for concussed athletes at the Division 1 setting. Coaches and teammates don’t pressure the athlete to return immediately, professors allow for time off and extended time on assignments, and more universities are establishing Sports Psychology departments to help manage any anxiety or stress associated with the injury.
I think future studies should look into the effectiveness of these specific Sports Psych programs, as well how long-term, more severe athletic related injuries differ from these short-term injuries.

Kyle said...

Aaron, thanks for the excellent comment. I agree with your points. I think recent education has greatly improved in getting the message out of the severity and serious nature of concussions. I too have seen a great increase in the accommodations which faculty, staff and family are willing to make when an athlete sustains a concussion. I like your comment about future research studying the effectiveness of these accommodation. The obstacle I see to this may be the variety of different structures these departments have. Depending on the size and resources at a particular institution, these department may have very different structures and thus may be very difficult to assess. How are these departments at the Division 1 level typically set up in your experience? Have they all been similar in structure?

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