We tested hypotheses grounded in self-determination theory regarding athletes' cognitive appraisals and emotional reactions when returning to competition following a serious injury. Professional male athletes (N = 225) competing in the Australian Football League were presented with return-to-competition scenarios that varied with respect to: (1) degree of self-determination and (2) salience of re-injury concern. Significant MANOVA main effects were observed for the degree of self-determination on both primary appraisals and emotional responses as well as for the salience of re-injury concern on emotional response. Follow-up ANOVA polynomial trend analyses provided support for the hypothesized trends for greater self-determination in the return to sport to result in more positive appraisals and affect. Findings support self-determination theory contentions and research indicating the psychological benefits of increased self-determination.