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Educate, involve and collaborate: three strategies for clinicians to empower athletes during return to sport
  1. Adam Gledhill1,
  2. Dale Forsdyke2,
  3. Tom Goom3,
  4. Leslie W Podlog4
  1. 1 School of Sport, Leeds Beckett University, Leeds, UK
  2. 2 School of Science, Technology and Health, York St John University, York, UK
  3. 3 The Physio Rooms, Falmer, UK
  4. 4 Department of Exercise and Sport Science, University of Utah, College of Health, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Adam Gledhill, School of Sport, Leeds Beckett University, Leeds LS6 3QS, UK; adam.gledhill{at}

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Empowering injured athletes is a critical concept within sport and exercise medicine to optimise patient experiences and return-to-sport (RTS) outcomes.1–3 Unfortunately, scant attention has been given to how clinicians can facilitate a sense of athlete empowerment during rehabilitation and RTS.

Drawing on existing empowerment literature, we consider empowerment to be an individual and social process whereby athletes are provided with the means to become more self-aware and health literate, which can, in turn, facilitate greater self-management, freedom and control over decisions and actions affecting the course of injury rehabilitation.2 4 We contend an empowered injured athlete is one who volitionally engages in their rehabilitation and experiences a sense of personal control over RTS decisions; perceives themselves to be competent or capable of achieving rehabilitation milestones and experiences a sense of connection to others (eg, rehabilitation providers, coaches, teammates, family). Given these three features of empowerment, we base our recommendations for enhancing empowerment through a framework addressing its components: the basic psychological needs theory (BPNT).5

Basic psychological needs theory

The BPNT is an empirically tested subtheory of the larger self-determination theory that articulates the relevance of autonomy, competence and relatedness. Deci and Ryan5 suggest that environmental support for individuals’ basic psychological needs contributes to self-determined motivation, well-being and adaptive behavioural outcomes.6 There is value and need to develop supportive contexts which foster …

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  • Correction notice This article has been corrected since it published Online First. An extra reference was added as reference 3.

  • Contributors All authors contributed to the scoping meetings for the ideas within this editorial and to the final writing of the manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests AG is an Associate Editor with BJSM.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.