Perceptions of psychological well-being during sport injury recovery: Experiences of seriously injured women athletes


Sport injury is a stressful event because it poses threats to an athlete's physical, emotional, and social well-being (Heil, 1993), which manifests cognitively, emotionally, and behaviourally (Brewer, 2007). Conversly, there is much to be gained from the sport injury experience (Tracey, 2003). There has been very little attention given to athletes' psychological well-being (PWB) during injury recovery. PWB is defined as "living well or actualizing one's true potentials" (Deci & Ryan, 2001, p.2). A thematic analysis of semi-structured interviews with 12 women varsity athletes with current serious injuries (out of sport for 21+days) was employed to investigate athletes' perceptions and experiences of PWB during sport injury recovery. Interviews focused on athlete-generated descriptions of PWB, and sport injury's impact on experiences of PWB in different contexts. Three main themes were developed. First, balancing life domains (e.g. sport, school, family) was identified as an important aspect of PWB, living congruently with an emphasis on purpose and growth. Secondly, sport injury disrupted equilibrium, where athletes faced identity crises, isolation, depression, and a lack of purpose. Athletes mitigated this loss by engaging and finding meaning in non-sport areas and seeking social support, specifically from people who had experienced injury. Thirdly, sport injury was identified as an opportunity for psychological growth, cultivating resilience and a greater appreciation of health and sport. Findings will be considered in relation to the growing literature on sport injury and PWB and help further our understanding of injured athletes' experiences of PWB and how athletes could be better supported.

Acknowledgments: Project funded by SSHRC