An adolescent perspective on injury recovery and the return to sport

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Abstract

Objectives:

The purpose of this investigation was to examine adolescent athletes' injury recovery and return-to-sport experiences. Given previous research highlighting competence, autonomy, and relatedness concerns among returning athletes (Podlog & Eklund, 2006), we sought to examine the extent to which basic psychological needs theory (BPNT: Ryan & Deci, 2007) could be used as framework for interpreting the research findings.

Design:

A qualitative design was employed in the present investigation.

Method:

Eleven Australian athletes (M age = 15.3) who had incurred a range of severe injuries (e.g., anterior cruciate ligament tears, shoulder dislocations) were interviewed on 2–3 occasions (n = 27 interviews) spanning an 11-month period.

Results:

Analysis of the data revealed the following four key themes: (a) injury stress, (b) coping strategies, (c) experiences with social support, and (d) recovery outcomes. Injury stress provides insights into a range of stressors and strain responses reported by the adolescents across the recovery phases, while the theme on coping highlights the specific strategies used to maintain motivation, reduce uncertainties associated with the injury experience, and to keep focused on future athletic attainment. The third theme, experiences with social support, considers the transactions the adolescents held with members of their social network throughout their recovery. The final theme, recovery outcomes, describes participant perceptions of a successful/unsuccessful recovery and stress-related growth.

Conclusions:

Results suggest that competence and relatedness issues highlighted in BPNT may be relevant in exploring adolescent athletes' injury experience. Somewhat less evidence for the autonomy dimension of BPNT was apparent in adolescent comments.

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