The Impact of Sport Psychology Education on the Attitudes and Behaviour of Physiotherapists

Heaney, Caroline Ann (2015). The Impact of Sport Psychology Education on the Attitudes and Behaviour of Physiotherapists. PhD thesis The Open University.



The occurrence of a sports injury can have both physiological and psychological implications for the athlete. Traditionally the treatment of the injured athlete has focused on the physiological aspects, but increasingly the psychological aspects are also being considered. This thesis examines the educational preparation of physiotherapists, key providers of sport injury treatment in the UK, to provide psychological support to the injured athlete. Previous research (e.g. Arvinen-Barrow et al., 2007; Heaney, 2006a) has suggested that whilst physiotherapists recognise the importance of psychological factors in the rehabilitation from sports injury, they often feel unprepared to deliver sport psychology support, and have expressed a desire for further training. The primary aim of this thesis was therefore to examine the influence of sport psychology education on the attitude and behaviour of UK physiotherapists. The thesis comprises four studies. Study 1 investigated the psychology content of UK physiotherapy degree programmes. Study 2 investigated whether those who have previously undertaken sport psychology education demonstrate more positive attitudes and behaviours to sport psychology than those who have not. Study 3 sought to identify the most appropriate content for a sport psychology education package for practicing physiotherapists. Finally, Study 4 evaluated the impact of a sport psychology education intervention on the attitude and behaviour of practicing physiotherapists. It was found that that there were vast inconsistencies in the nature and extent of psychology education in UK physiotherapy degrees and that sport psychology education can have a significant positive impact on the attitudes and behaviours of physiotherapists. It was concluded that more sport psychology education opportunities should be made available to UK physiotherapists and that further research is required to investigate the optimal mode and duration of such opportunities.

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