Stress Related Sports Injuries

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Physical factors are one the primary cause of injuries in sports and exercise for instance, a poor tackle in football, an awkward landing in gymnastics or poor warm-ups in sprinting. However, psychological researchers are continuing to show that thoughts, perceptions and aspects of personality may be linked to the incidence of injury. Stress and athletic injury

Past research has seen the relationship between athletic injuries and psychological factors as essentially stress-related (1). In this sense, stress is predicted to produce increased state anxiety and consequently alterations in attentional focus and muscular tension. It is important to note that stress does not exist outside the individual “ not all people respond negatively to potentially stressful situations; one person may view a championship match as exciting and exhilarating while another becomes anxious and chokes. This will usually depend on the individual's personality traits (perceptual bias) and the coping response present. The importance of coping mechanisms will be discussed further towards the end of this paper but at this point it is useful to point out that between stress and its consequences are positioned individual coping strategies. Learning to cope with stress can avoid such negative symptoms as attentional disruption and muscular tension. In situations seen as stressful, athletes will often report attentional narrowing and excessive muscular tension, which are thought to increase the chances of sustaining an injury. Having a flexible attentional focus is an important attribute in many fast sporting activities that require both narrow (focusing on perhaps just one environmental cue) and broad focus (focusing on peripheral cues such as the positioning of other team members or opponents) at different times during play. Stress can cause attentional narrowing which results in important peripheral cues being missed. For example, the football player that only attends to the ball may fail to withdraw from an unrealistic challenge (rather than stay on his feet) in which his opponent is obviously going to meet the ball first. This can result in a late tackle and/or injury. A significant body of past evidence also supports the notion that stress can cause increased muscular tension, which disrupts coordination and increases the risk of injury. A figure skater that becomes tense during a difficult routine might lack coordination due to muscular tension and fall, injuring an ankle. Threatening situations:

One important model that highlighted the stress-injury relationship cited both situational factors (i.e. importance of situation) and personal characteristics (i.e. personality traits) as important determinants of outcome (2). This model cited the interaction between factors as crucial and provided an impetus for future research. An athlete who tends to view situations as threatening (high trait anxiety), who has a history of life stressors (major life-changing events and daily hassles) and has poor coping resources (lacks social support, etc.) is considered to be more likely to experience a negative stress response and consequently is more prone to athletic injury. Although the relationship between stress and injury is complex, one study that used a large sample size “ 452 athletes (3) “ showed that as predicted, athletes with more life stress, little social support and poor coping skills were associated with more days of non-participation due to athletic injury. Personality research:

Some researchers are quick to associate personality traits with athletic injury. In general, research concerning the measurement of personality in the sport and exercise field has been controversial, plagued by inappropriate and inconsistent methodologies and grossly over-generalized application of results. Unfortunately, many psychologists have adopted one of two bi-polar stances that either ascribes great significance to the role of personality or virtually no...
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