Injured Athlete’s Perceptions About Social Support

Clement D, and Shannon VR. J Sport Rehabil. 2011 Nov(20): 457-469.

Approximately 17 million sports-related injuries occur annually in the United States and while these injuries inflict physical harm there are also psychological ramifications to dealing with these injuries. While some research has been done on this subject, only 2 studies have specifically assessed the perception of social support among injured athletes during the course of rehabilitation. Therefore Clement and Shannon, completed a study to determine injured athlete’s perceptions regarding satisfaction, availability, and contribution for 8 types of social support (i.e., listening support, emotional support, emotional-challenges support, reality confirmation, task-appreciation support, task-challenge support, tangible support, and personal assistance) from coaches, athletic trainers, and teammates. A total of 49 injured student-athletes (27 women, 22 men) from 1 of 2 Mid-Atlantic universities (NCAA Division II = 24 athletes and Division III = 25 athletes) took part in the survey study. Of the 49 participants, 22 reported their injury as “severe,” although this was not defined. Athletes were given a modified version of the Social Support Survey by certified athletic trainers at both institutions. The modified Social Support Survey was adjusted to examine social support from 3 sources (athletic trainers, coaches, and teammates) using 72, 5-point Likert-scale items (the validity of the modified instrument was not reported). Perceived social support from athletic trainers was statistically higher in terms of satisfaction, availability, and contribution compared to social support from teammates or coaches.

Overall this study highlights how valuable athletic trainers are not only as care givers, but as a source of social support to injured athletes. It was suggested by the authors that the reason for these findings may be that “athletic trainers work exclusively with injured athletes from their initial injury until they are allowed to return to unrestricted activity.” While athletic trainers were the primary healthcare professionals observed in this study, this reasoning suggests that all healthcare professionals play a critical role in helping athletes cope while they are injured, particularly clinicians with regular sessions with patients (e.g., athletic trainers, physical therapists). It will be interesting to see future studies elaborate on this finding especially when the surveys are provided by individuals that are not sources of social support (e.g., athletic trainers). Regardless this data suggests that we should consider including more extensive training in dealing with emotionally issues that an injured athlete may face. What do you think? Have you found yourself providing social support for your injured athletes, who may not be getting such support from friends, family or coaches? What is your educational background in dealing with these problems? Would you be interested or have already taken courses in how to help injured athletes through the difficulties of an injury?

Written by: Kyle Harris
Reviewed by: Jeffrey Driban

Clement D, & Shannon VR (2011). Injured athletes’ perceptions about social support. Journal of Sport Rehabilitation, 20 (4), 457-70 PMID: 22012499