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The psychological response to injury in student athletes: a narrative review with a focus on mental health
  1. Margot Putukian1,2
  1. 1Department of Athletic Medicine, University Health Services, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey, USA
  2. 2Rutgers—Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, University Health Services, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Margot Putukian, Department of Athletic Medicine, University Health Services, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08540, USA; putukian{at}Princeton.edu

Abstract

Background Injury is a major stressor for athletes and one that can pose significant challenges. Student athletes must handle rigorous academic as well as athletic demands that require time as well as significant physical requirements. Trying to perform and succeed in the classroom and on the playing field has become more difficult as the demands and expectations have increased. If an athlete is injured, these stressors increase.

Main thesis Stress is an important antecedent to injuries and can play a role in the response to, rehabilitation and return to play after injury. The psychological response to injury can trigger and/or unmask mental health issues including depression and suicidal ideation, anxiety, disordered eating, and substance use/abuse. There are barriers to mental health treatment in athletes. They often consider seeking help as a sign of weakness, feeling that they should be able to ‘push through’ psychological obstacles as they do physical ones. Athletes may not have developed healthy coping behaviours making response to injury especially challenging.

Purpose I discuss the current state of knowledge regarding the psychological response to injury and delineate resources necessary to direct the injured athlete to a mental health care provider if appropriate.

  • Athlete
  • Depression
  • Injury
  • Sport
  • Psychology

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