Do Injured Adolescent Athletes and Their Parents Agree on the Athletes’ Level of Psychologic and Physical Functioning?

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Although a parent’s perception of his or her child’s physical and emotional functioning may influence the course of the child’s medical care, including access to care and decisions regarding treatment options, no studies have investigated whether the perceptions of a parent are concordant with that of an adolescent diagnosed with a sports-related orthopaedic injury. Identifying and understanding the potential discordance in coping and emotional distress within the athlete adolescent-parent dyads are important, because this discordance may have negative effects on adolescents’ well-being.


The purposes of this study were (1) to compare adolescent and parent proxy ratings of psychologic symptoms (depression and anxiety), coping skills (catastrophic thinking about pain and pain self-efficacy), and upper extremity physical function and mobility in a population of adolescent-parent dyads in which the adolescent had a sport-related injury; and (2) to compare scores of adolescents and parent proxies with normative scores when such are available.


We enrolled 54 dyads (eg, pairs) of adolescent patients (mean age 16 years; SD = 1.6) presenting to a sports medicine practice with sports-related injuries as well as their accompanying parent(s). We used Patient-reported Outcomes Measurement Information System questionnaires to measure adolescents’ depression, anxiety, upper extremity physical function, and mobility. We used the Pain Catastrophizing Scale short form to assess adolescents’ catastrophic thinking about pain and the Pain Self-efficacy Scale short form to measure adolescents’ pain self-efficacy. The accompanying parent, 69% mothers (37 of 54) and 31% fathers (17 of 54), completed parent proxy versions of each questionnaire.


Parents reported that their children had worse scores (47 ± 9) on depression than what the children themselves reported (43 ± 9; mean difference 4.0; 95% confidence interval [CI], -7.0 to 0.91; p = 0.011; medium effect size -0.47). Also, parents reported that their children engaged in catastrophic thinking about pain to a lesser degree (8 ± 5) than what the children themselves reported (13 ± 4; mean difference 4.5; 95% CI, 2.7-6.4; p < 0.001; large effect size 1.2). Because scores on depression and catastrophic thinking were comparable to the general population, and minimal clinically important difference scores are not available for these measures, it is unclear whether the relatively small observed differences between parents’ and adolescents’ ratings are clinically meaningful. Parents and children were concordant on their reports of the child’s upper extremity physical function (patient perception 47 ± 10, parent proxy 47 ± 8, mean difference -0.43, p = 0.70), mobility (patient perception 43 ± 9, parent proxy 44 ± 9, mean difference -0.59, p = 0.64), anxiety (patient perception 43 ± 10, parent proxy 46 ± 8, mean difference -2.1, p = 0.21), and pain self-efficacy (patient perception 16 ± 5, parent proxy 15 ± 5, mean difference 0.70, p = 0.35).


Parents rated their children as more depressed and engaging in less catastrophic thinking about pain than the adolescents rated themselves. Although these differences are statistically significant, they are of a small magnitude making it unclear as to how clinically important they are in practice. We recommend that providers keep in mind that parents may overestimate depressive symptoms and underestimate the catastrophic thinking about pain in their children, probe for these potential differences, and consider how they might impact medical care.

Level of Evidence

Level I, prognostic study.

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