What if we ask them? How elite athletes, coaches and physio's perceive an injury.

A new take on defining what a sports related injury really is. Injury definition is a relevant topic in sports injury prevention, however we don't know if the theoretical sports injury definitions current applied in literature also align with the perspectives of the main stakeholders in an elite sports setting. What if we ask them?  That was the aim of the study: to explore how athletes, coaches, and physiotherapists define a sports injury, and how the elite sport context influences their perception of injury.

Semi-structured interviews were conducted with athletes (n=10), coaches (n=5) and physiotherapists (n=4) from different elite sports. The interviews were designed to explore core constructs of a sports injury, and the contextual factors that are related to these core constructs. Interviews were transcribed ad verbatim and analyzed independently by two analysts using comparative data analysis based on Grounded Theory.

 Based on interviews analysis, injury perception can be modified by personal and external factors (grey boxes), which influences the core constructs of the sports injury definition (IE, pain, performance level, and sports participation)

Based on interviews analysis, injury perception can be modified by personal and external factors (grey boxes), which influences the core constructs of the sports injury definition (IE, pain, performance level, and sports participation)

Participants most commonly defined an injury based on the athlete’s performance limitation. Pain and ability to participate were also constructs applied in the definition of an injury, but mainly to appraise severity. A variety of personal and external factors such as personal motivation, pain coping strategies and importance of competition, were mentioned that influenced the injury perception and consequently the injury definition. Based on interviews analysis, injury perception can be modified by contextual factors which influences the core constructs of the sports injury definition (i.e. pain, performance level and sports participation).  

A sports injury was presented as the end-result of an interaction between athlete features within the athletes’ context. Our findings acknowledge that a sports injury is a context-dependent concept, and provide an insight into the contextual factors that influence athletes’ and stakeholders’ perception of injury. 

Bolling C, Delfino Barboza S, van Mechelen W, Pasman HR. How elite athletes, coaches, and physiotherapists perceive a sports injury. Transl Sports Med. 2018;00:1–7.

The full text can be accessed here (open access)