Psychology of sport injury rehabilitation: A review of models and interventions


  • Giampaolo Santi University of Bologna, Italy
  • Luca Pietrantoni University of Bologna, Italy



Sport, Injury, Psychology, Motivation, Recovery, Rehabilitation, Intervention


The aim of this review is to provide the state of the art about the psychology of sport injury rehabilitation by analyzing the most recent literature and research on this field. In the first part we provide theoretical models contextualizing the sport injury, the motivational process underlying the recovery, and the influence of social and contextual factors. In the second part we analyze the possible psychological interventions and their effect on the rehabilitation process. In conclusion we highlight some gaps in the current literature and we propose directions for future research.


Download data is not yet available.


Arvinen-Barrow, M., Penny, G., Hemmings, B. & Corr, S. (2010). UK chartered physiotherapists' personal experiences in using psychological interventions with injured athletes: an interpretative phenomenological analysis. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 11(1), pp.58-66.

Brewer, B.W. (1994). Review and critique of models of psychological adjustment to athletic injury. J Appl Sport Psychol, 6, pp.87-100.

Brewer, B.W. (2007). Psychology of Sport Injury Rehabilitation. In G. Tenenbaum, & R. Eklund (Eds.), Handbook of Sport Psychology (pp. 404-424). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley & sons.

Brewer, B.W. (2009). Injury prevention and rehabilitation. In B. W. Brewer (Ed.), Sport Psychology (pp. 83-96). Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.

Carson, F. & Polman, R. (2012). Experiences of professional rugby union players returning to competition following anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction. Physical Therapy in Sport, 13, pp.35-40.

Chan, D.K.C., Hagger, M.S. & Spray, C.M. (2011). Treatment motivation for rehabilitation after a sport injury: application of the trans-contextual model. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 12, pp.83-92.

Cupal, D.D. & Brewer, B.W. (2001). Effects of Relaxation and Guided Imagery on Knee Strength, Reinjury Anxiety, and Pain Following Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction. Rehabil Psychol, 46(1), pp.28-43.

Evans, L. & Hardy, L. (2002a). Injury rehabilitation: a goal-setting intervention study. Res Q Exercise Sport, 73(3), pp.310-319.

Evans, L. & Hardy, L. (2002b). Injury rehabilitation: a qualitative follow-up study. Res Q Exercise Sport, 73(3), pp.320-329.

Filby, W.C.D., Maynard, I.W. & Graydon, J.K. (1999). The effect of multiple-goal strategies on performance outcomes in training and competition. J Appl Sport Psychol, 11, pp.230-246.

Ford, I.W. & Gordon, S. (1993). Social support and athletic injury: the perspective of sport physiotherapists. Australian Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 25(1), pp.17-25.

Francis, S.R., Andersen, M.B. & Maley, P. (2000). Physiotherapists' and male professional athletes' views on psychological skills for rehabilitation. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 3(1), pp.17-29.

Giustini, M. & Cedri, S. (2002). La neuro-traumatologia dello sport: epidemiologia dei traumi sportivi in Italia. Roma: Atti del Congresso dell'Istituto Superiore di Sanità.

Gordon, S., Potter, M. & Ford, I.W. (1998). Toward a psychoeducational curriculum for training sport-injury rehabilitation personnel. J Appl Sport Psychol, 10(1), pp.140-156.

Hagger, M.S., Chatzisarantis, N.L.D., Barkoukis, V., Wang, C.K.J. & Baranowski, J. (2005). Perceived autonomy support in physical education and leisure-time physical activity: a cross-cultural evaluation of the trans-contextual model. J Educ Psychol, 97, pp.376-390.

Hale, B.D., Seiser, L., McGuire, E.J. & Weinrich, E. (2005). Mental Imagery. In J. Taylor, & G. Wilson (Eds.), Applying sport psychology (pp.187-206). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Hamson-Utley, J.J. & Vazquez, L. (2008). The comeback: Rehabilitating the psychological injury. Athlet Ther Today, 13(5), pp.35-38.

Handegard, L.A., Joyner, A.B., Burke, K.L. & Reimann, B. (2006). Relaxation and Guided Imagery in the Sport Rehabilitation Context. Journal of Excellence, 11, pp.146-164.

Hogan, B. E., Linden, W. & Najarian, B. (2002). Social support interventions. Do they works? Clin Psychol Rev, 22, pp.381-440.

Kübler-Ross, E. (1969). On Death and Dying. London: Routledge.

Lepley, A.S., Gribble, P.A. & Pietrosimone, B.G. (2012). Effects of electromyographic biofeedback on quadriceps strength: A systematic review. J Strength Cond Res, 26(3), pp.873-882.

McKinney, C.H., Antoni, M.H., Kumar, M., Tims, F.C. & McCabe, P.M. (1997a). Effects of guided imagery and music (GIM) therapy on mood and cortisol in healthy adults. Health Psychol, 16(4), pp.390-400.

McKinney, C.H., Tims, F.C., Kumar, A.M. & Kumar, M. (1997b). The effect of selected classical music and spontaneous imagery on plasma β-endorphin. J Behav Med, 20(1), pp.85-99.

Mellalieu, S.D., Hanton, S. & Thomas, O. (2009). The effects of a motivational general-arousal imagery intervention upon preperformance symptoms in male rugby union players. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 10, pp.175-185.

Mendo, A.H. (2011). Electromyographic biofeedback in the rehabilitation of knee injuries. Two case studies of professional soccer players. [Biofeeback electromiográfico en la rehabilitación de lesiones de rodilla. Estudio de dos casos en futbolistas profesionales] Cuadernos De Psicologia Del Deporte, 11(2 SUPP), pp.71-80.

Naoi, A. & Ostrow, A. (2008). The effects of cognitive and relaxations interventions on injured athletes' mood and pain during rehabilitation. The Online Journal of Sport Psychology, 10(1).

NEISS (2010). NEISS data highlights 2010. US Consumer Product Safety Commission.

O'Connor, E., Heil, J., Harmer, P. & Zimmerman, I. (2005). Injury. In J. Taylor, & G. Wilson (Eds.), Applying sport psychology (pp. 187-206). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Olmedilla, A., Ortega, E., Abenza, L. & Boladeras, A. (2011). Lesiones deportivas y psicologia: una revisiòn (2000-2009). Cuadernos de Psicologia del Deporte, 11(1), pp.45-57.

Peper, E., Harvey, R. & Takabayashi, N. (2009). Biofeedback an evidence based approach in clinical practice. Japanese Journal of Biofeedback Research, 36(1), pp.3-10

Pérez-Turpin, J.A., Cortell-Tormo, J.M., Suárez-Llorca, C., Chinchilla-Mira, J.J., Cejuela-Anta, R. & Andreu-Cabrera, E. (2012a). Lesiones en windsurfistas de élite masculinos. Revista Internacional de Medicina y Ciencias de la Actividad Física y el Deporte, 12(45), pp.83-92.

Pérez-Turpin, J.A., Cortell-Tormo, J.M., Suárez-Llorca, C., Chinchilla-Mira, J.J. & Carreres-Ponsoda, F. (2012b). Gender differences in sport injury: A retrospective study of elite windsurfers. Gazzetta Medica Italiana Archivio per le Scienze Mediche, 171(1), pp.59-64.

Pietrantoni, L. & Prati, G. (2012). Attivi e sedentari. Psicologia dell'attività fisica. Bologna: Il Mulino.

Podlog, L. & Eklund, R.C. (2007a). The psychosocial aspects of a return to sport following serious injury: A review of the literature from a self-determination perspective. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 8, pp.535-566.

Podlog, L. & Eklund, R.C. (2007b). Professional coaches' perspectives on the return to sport following serious injury. J Appl Sport Psychol, 19(2), pp.207-225.

Podlog, L. & Eklund, R.C. (2009). High-level athletes' perceptions of success in returning to sport following injury. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 10(5), pp.535-544.

Podlog, L., Dimmock, J. & Miller, J. (2011). A review of return to sport concerns following injury rehabilitation: Practitioner strategies for enhancing recovery outcomes. Physical Therapy in Sport, 12, pp.36-42.

Rees, T., Mitchell, I., Evans, L. & Hardy, L. (2010). Stressors, social support and psychological responses to sport injury in high- and low-performance standard participants. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 11, pp.505-512.

Ryan, R. & Deci, E.L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development and well-being. Am Psychol, 55, pp.68-78.

Sparkes, A.C. (2000). Illness, premature career-termination, and the loss of self: A biographical study of an elite athlete. In R. L. Jones and K. M. Armour (Eds.), Sociology of sport: Theory and practice (pp. 14–32). Harlow: Longman.

Taylor, J. & Taylor, S. (1997). Psychological approaches to sports injury rehabilitation. Gaithersburg, MD: Aspen.

Taylor, J. & Taylor, S. (1998). Pain education and management in the rehabilitation from sports injury. Sport Psychol, 12(1), pp.68-88.

Thompson, M. & Thompson, L. (2003). The biofeedback book: An introduction to basic concepts in applied psychophysiology. Wheat Ridge, CO: Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback.

Vallerand, R.J. (2000). Deci and Ryan's self-determination theory: a view from the hierarchical model of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Psychol Inq, 11, pp.312-318.

Van der Sman, C., Van Marle, A., Eckhardt, J. & Van Aken, D. (2003). Risks of certain sports and recreational activities in the EU. Amsterdam: Consumer Safety Institute.

Vealey, R.S. & Greenleaf, C.A. (2001). Seeing is believing: Understanding and using imagery in sport. In J. M. Williams, (Ed.), Applied sport psychology: Personal growth to peak performance (pp. 247-283). Mountain View, CA.: Mayfield Publishing Co.

Vergeer, I. (2006). Exploring the mental representation of athletic injury: A longitudinal case study. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 7, pp.99-114.

Vitale, F. (2011). Recupero e prevenzione dell'infortunio sportivo: una ricerca sul contributo della pratica mentale (imagery). Giornale Italiano di Psicologia dello Sport, 10, pp.42-47.

Weinberg, R. (2009). Motivation. In B. W. Brewer (Ed.), Sport Psychology (pp. 7-17). Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.

Weinberg, R. & Gould, D. (2011). Imagery. In R. Weinberg and D. Gould (Eds.), Foundations of sport and exercise psychology (5th ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Wiese-bjornstal, D.M., Smith, A. M., Shaffer, S.M. & Morrey, M. A. (1998). An integrated model of response to sport injury: Psychological and sociological dynamics. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 10(1), 46-69.


Statistics RUA



How to Cite

Santi, G., & Pietrantoni, L. (2013). Psychology of sport injury rehabilitation: A review of models and interventions. Journal of Human Sport and Exercise, 8(4), 1029–1044.



Review Paper