Bringing Sport Psychology into Physiotherapy

Heaney, Caroline; Walker, Natalie; Green, Alison and Rostron, Claire (2016). Bringing Sport Psychology into Physiotherapy. In: British Association of Sport & Exercises Sciences (BASES) Conferences 2016, 29-30 Nov 2016, East Midlands Conference Centre, Nottingham.


Whilst the benefits of sport psychology intervention during injury rehabilitation are well documented it appears that it remains underutilised by physiotherapists (Alexanders, Anderson and Henderson, 2015, Physiotherapy, 101, 95-102). A lack of education in this field for physiotherapists has been suggested as a causative factor. Preliminary studies undertaken on North American populations have shown support for sport psychology education interventions but no studies have examined physiotherapists and none have been UK based. The purpose of this study was therefore to measure the impact of an online sport psychology education module on the sport psychology related attitudes and behaviours of physiotherapists in the UK. Following ethical approval, ninety-five sport physiotherapists studied either an online sport psychology module (n=44, 23 males, 21 females, mean age: 33.7 + 8.2) or a control module (n=51, 26 males, 25 females, mean age: 36.1 + 8.8), and their attitudes and behaviours towards sport psychology were measured prior to studying the module and at three points over a six-month period following its completion. This data was collected using a questionnaire package that included the Attitudes About Imagery Survey (Hamson-Utley, Martin and Walters, 2008, Journal of Athletic Training, 43, 258-264) and the Psychology of Injury Usage Survey (Stiller-Ostrowski, Gould and Covassin, 2009, Journal of Athletic Training, 44, 482-489). It was found that those who had studied the sport psychology module demonstrated an improvement in their attitudes towards sport psychology immediately following its completion that was significantly higher than those who had studied the control module (F(1,93) = 4.44, P = 0.038). Use of sport psychology also increased following the sport psychology module, with significant differences seen between the intervention and control group on the sport psychology subscale (F(1,93) = 6.83, P = 0.010), indicating that those who had studied the sport psychology module were integrating more sport psychology techniques such as imagery, relaxation and self-talk into their practice than those who had studied the control module. The sport psychology module was well received by the physiotherapists with most rating it as highly beneficial and indicating that they had been motivated to undertake further study on the topic. Qualitative data revealed that the physiotherapists particularly liked the practical application of the module. It was concluded that the online sport psychology module was effective in improving the attitudes and behaviours of UK physiotherapists and that more sport psychology education opportunities should be made available.

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