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


Are We Doing Enough to Plan for How Injuries Affect Players Later in Life?

Arvinen-Barrow M, Clement D, Hamson-Utley JJ, Zakrajsek RA, Lee SM, Kamphoff C, Lintunen T, Hemmings B, & Martin SB (2015). Athletes’ use of mental skills during sport injury rehabilitation. Journal of Sport Rehabilitation, 24 (2), 189-97 PMID: 25996227