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Emotional Response to Injuries to Rugby Players

Emotional Response to Injuries to Rugby Players

Injuries to Rugby Players

The studies regarding rugby’s psychological responses following a rugby match injury have increased over time. Research has underlined the impact of an injury as an adverse mental effect whereas disclosing that people injured are exposed to enhanced temperament disorders. The psychologically features of an injury are barely overlooked owing to the consideration exclusively based on the person’s physical state.  A study by Hurley, (2014) suggested that competitive sport such as rugby places great physical strains on the player’s body and further explained why certain persons are more frequently injured than others.  Regardless of their studies, only a little evidence explained how injury reoccurrence was related to physical aspects. Other factors such as emotional ones may be essential in shedding light on injury reoccurrence and can be considered in terms of theoretical, practical, and empirical perspectives.

According to Arvinen-Barrow, Massey, & Hemmings (2014), injury rehabilitation takes two forms that is; physical and psychological. Most research explained that injured players experience a series of emotions including downheartedness, fury, confusion, and tension. Arden et al., (2012) suggests that rugby players are well fit to face stressful scenarios, such as injury although they differ in the way they cope with and recover.  Interaction of individual-specific factors and the environment thrive in influences players’ coping ability and injury recovery (Ardern, Taylor, Feller & Webster, 2012). Psychological injury has in many studies proved to be a disturbing experience that is one that many rugby players’ find hard to cope with. Davies, Judge,  Delmestri,  Kemp,  Stokes,  Arden & Newton (2017) found that about 15% of injured players had psychological distress levels so high which not only can it hinder their successful action on the sport, but also prompt them to become injured again in future.

Theoretical Perspective- Stage Models of Response

Several models have been established in order to illuminate rugby players’ emotional response to recurrent injury (Thomas, 2014). The most comprehensive effort to epitomize emotional response to sports injury in rugby is based on ideologies from the studies of stress and coping. Both pre and pro injury individual and situational factor influence a rugby player‘s emotional response to injury intermediated by a process of cognitive evaluation.  This stress-based model also has the capacity to justify responses features of grief.

According to Wise-Bjornstal (2010), sports injury is conceived as a stressor that player deduces in terms of it varied effects and their effort to deal with its impacts. Occurrence in high-intensity sport is a negative and nerve-racking health event associated with intricate hordes of risk and outcomes (Thomas, 2014). Situational differences refer to aspects of the sport such as time and level of competition, physical aspects-accessibility to rehabilitation- and social factors.  On the other hand, personal aspects include severity and type of injury, individual fluctuating differences in the psychological perceptive and physical aspects such as eating behavior and health status.  Recent studies by Brewer, (2017) emphasizes that individual’s characters such as their personality’s difference tend to adhere to rehabilitation more than others.   Personal aspects of this stress-based model play a pivotal role in emotional responses to sports injuries.  Another study by Mainwaring, Hutchison, Bisschop, Comper & Richards (2010) found out devotional traits within the rugby players being significantly different.  The environment the injured player is in while in rehabilitation affects his emotional response.  For example, a player who is always present as a spectator while injured possesses different behavior to a player who cannot stand to watch the match while in rehabilitation. The emotional response difference between the two players has a significant effect on their rehabilitation. To some extent, the two players can pull themselves out of rehabilitation before they fully recover to go join their respective team players which in turn would make them more prone to future injuries as their body has not yet fully recuperated.  The intensity of injury severity also does have a direct correlation to rugby player’s psychological response to injury (Arden et al., 2012). Although there are studies which portray opposing psychological characteristics such as aggression, and increased anxiety to injury-likelihood in a match, a study by Thomas, (2014) show that multiple injured players possess significant difference in emotional response than a first time injured rugby player. Multiple injured players had a better tendency to accept the injury scenario and had a reduced likelihood of anxiety. They also find the whole injury familiarity a lot less stressful in contrast to first time injured rugby players. Self-confidence and efficacy often reduce before injured players return to participation in the game. Another study shows that rugby players returning to play matches pointed out fear of recurrence as their major concerns as well as finding difficult when returning to the competitive sport. Players ought not only to be physically ready to return to the sport but also reflect great emotional readiness. If a player does not feel psychologically organized to play, the player may not only be able to play but also increase his/her chance of being reinjured (Hurley, 2014). Increased competitive anxiety is often experienced by previously serious players who return to competitive sport, this can come in form of negative feelings and experiences which are probable to increase the likelihood of being reinjured.  High competitive reasoning and trait anxiety are significantly correlated to the injury rate.

Other stage models do not cover pain and psychological preparedness to return to rugby matches, hence a model of sport-linked pain was developed which focused on the types of pains that players might get exposed to before and after injury.  This model explains that rugby players experience after-match injury pain when they describe their psychological sensations, as a threat to their well-being and connect the sensations to injury. Detection of emotional sensational is thought to greatly influence individual differences in fitness, care to bodily signs and age. The assessment process is affected by both intrinsic and extrinsic factors. The model ascertains that when players with injury consider emotional sensations as pain, their replies are subject to the influence of aspects such as motivation and cultural norms. Gender, level of rugby game and timing of surgery in case of severe injury are linked to fear of injury recurrence following surgery (Arden et al., 2012). The model is considered shallow because it only explains the understanding of pain once it occurs in sports injury (Brewer, 2017).

Psychological readiness to go back to rugby has not been completely hypothetical hence a model called Self-determination theory (SDT) was developed which suggests worthwhile clarification as to why players might or might not be psychologically prepared to return to the sport after injury. Gaining confidence after injury treatment appear to be significant coupled with increased self-confidence delivered by finalizing medical and sport-specific assessments (Carson & Polman, 2012). Another study by Mainwaring et al., (2010), have rendered pragmatic support for the argument that players can be termed as little emotionally ready to return to sport when their basic psychological needs for affiliation, competence, and autonomy are not being met than when those wants are being satisfied.

Rehabilitation plays a pivotal role in formulating formally injured players bodies in order to allow them to play role in the sport in future. Setting goals by injured players while in rehabilitation would help in the psychological recovery of the players although some of them after they are unable to meet the set goals, experience more adverse thoughts and frustrations which in turn lead to giving up on their recovery programs (Thomas, 2014).


Ardern, C. L., Taylor, N. F., Feller, J. A., & Webster, K. E. (2012). Fear of re-injury in people who have returned to sport following anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction surgery. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 15(6), 488-495. doi:10.1016/j.jsams.2012.03.015

Arvinen-Barrow, M., Massey, W. V., & Hemmings, B. (2014). Role of Sport Medicine Professionals in Addressing Psychosocial Aspects of Sport-Injury Rehabilitation: Professional Athletes’ Views. Journal of Athletic Training, 49(6), 764-772. doi:10.4085/1062-6050-49.3.44

Brewer, B. W. (2017, May). Psychological Responses to Sport Injury – Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Psychology. Retrieved from http://psychology.oxfordre.com/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780190236557.001.0001/acrefore-9780190236557-e-172

Carson, F., & Polman, R. (2012). Experiences of professional rugby union players returning to competition following anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction. Physical Therapy in Sport, 13(1), 35-40. doi:10.1016/j.ptsp.2010.10.007

Davies, M. A., D. Judge, A., Delmestri, A., P.T. Kemp, S., Stokes, K. A., Arden, N. K., & Newton, J. L. (2017). Health amongst former rugby union players: A cross-sectional study of morbidity and health-related quality of life. Scientific Reports, 7(1). doi:10.1038/s41598-017-12130-y

Hurley, D. (2014). The Psychosocial Impact Of Career-Ending Injuries in Elite Rugby Union Players: A Qualitative Study. Retrieved from https://jyx.jyu.fi/dspace/bitstream/handle/123456789/43766/URN:NBN:fi:jyu-201406172068.pdf?sequence=1

Mainwaring, L. M., Hutchison, M., Bisschop, S. M., Comper, P., & Richards, D. W. (2010). Emotional response to sport concussion compared to ACL injury. Brain Injury, 24(4), 589-597. doi:10.3109/02699051003610508

Thomas, C. (2014). Emotional Responses to Injury In Rugby Union Players: An Investigation Of The Potential Influence Of Playing Standards. Retrieved from https://repository.cardiffmet.ac.uk/bitstream/handle/10369/6037/Thomas_Carwyn_20001845.docx.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y


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