Relaxation techniques in sport injury rehabilitation

Walker, Natalie and Heaney, Caroline (2013). Relaxation techniques in sport injury rehabilitation. In: Arvinen-Barrow, Monna and Walker, Natalie eds. The Psychology of Sport Injury and Rehabilitation. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 86–102.



Several studies have explored the different stressors that athletes may have to cope with when participating in sport. The literature suggests that aspects of competition (for example, thinking about mistakes), interpersonal relationships (for example, expectations from coaches, team mates, or the media), financial concerns (for example, sponsorship), environmental conditions (such as the weather), and traumatic experiences (for example, enduring an injury), can all test an athlete's coping resources. The key to coping with these stressors is for the athlete is to learn to become self-aware of their responses to stressors and then adopt appropriate techniques (such as relaxation techniques) to facilitate coping. Thus far, a number of psychological interventions have been identified as being beneficial in helping athletes to deal with stressors, one of which is relaxation techniques. The use of such psychological interventions expands beyond the performance-enhancement context to also include sport injury rehabilitation (for example, Arvinen-Barrow, Hemmings, Weigand, Becker and Booth, 2007; Heaney, 2006). It has been documented that both athletes and sport medicine professionals use psychological interventions, including relaxation techniques, as part of rehabilitation programmes as well as during the process of returning to training and sporting competition following an injury. This chapter (a) introduces the purpose of relaxation techniques in sport injury rehabilitation; (b) outlines the types of relaxation techniques used in sport injury rehabilitation; (c) summarises the literature related to the use of relaxation techniques in sport injury rehabilitation; (d) discusses the ways in which relaxation techniques can be combined with other psychological interventions; and (e) provides practical advice to those working with injured athletes on how to maximise the use of relaxation techniques.

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