A review of return to sport concerns following injury rehabilitation: practitioner strategies for enhancing recovery outcomes

Phys Ther Sport. 2011 Feb;12(1):36-42. doi: 10.1016/j.ptsp.2010.07.005. Epub 2010 Aug 30.


Objectives: Evidence suggests that competitive athletes returning to sport following injury rehabilitation may experience a range of psychosocial concerns. The purpose of this paper is to review some of the psychosocial stresses common among returning athletes and to provide practitioner strategies for enhancing recovery outcomes.

Evidence acquisition: Findings are based on a database search of Sport Discus, Psychinfo, and Medline using sport injury, fear of re-injury, return to full activity.

Results: Salient apprehensions among athletes' returning to sport following injury were found to include: anxieties associated with re-injury; concerns about an inability to perform to pre-injury standards; feelings of isolation, a lack of athletic identity and insufficient social support; pressures to return to sport; and finally, self-presentational concerns about the prospect of appearing unfit, or lacking in skill in relation to competitors.

Conclusions: The results suggest that athletes returning to sport from injury may experience concerns related to their sense of competence, autonomy and relatedness. Given its focus on competence, autonomy and relatedness issues, self-determination theory (SDT) is offered as a framework for understanding athlete concerns in the return to sport from injury. Practical suggestions for sport medicine practitioners, researchers and applied sport psychology specialists seeking to address athlete issues are provided using an SDT perspective.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Athletic Injuries / psychology
  • Athletic Injuries / rehabilitation*
  • Competitive Behavior*
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Personal Autonomy
  • Physical Therapy Modalities*
  • Social Support
  • Sports Medicine*
  • Stress, Psychological
  • Treatment Outcome*