Electronic Theses and Dissertations


Open Access Thesis


Athletes--Rehabilitation--Social conditions; Athletes--Social networks; Athletes--Rehabilitation--Sex differences;


Athletic injury can be a stress-inducing event that could have negative consequences on the psychological health of the athlete (Anderson & Williams, 1988; Gould, Udry, Bridges, & Beck, 1997). Injuries not only challenge the athlete physically, but also mentally challenge their ability to cope and overcome. A growing amount of research has indicated social support as a key factor in the rehabilitation process for an injured athlete (Yang, Peek, Lowe, Heiden, & Foster, 2010). Athletic injury causes an emotional disruption, and social support could influence the athlete’s reaction to the injury and his or her ability to cope with rehabilitation (Green & Weinberg, 2001). Findings have suggested that social support can be used as a buffer to reduce the stress of the injury and aid in rehabilitation motivation (Johnston & Carroll, 1998). Social support has also been highlighted as a key factor impacting athletes’ emotional and behavioral responses during injury rehabilitation (Albinson & Petrie 2003; Wiese-Bjornstal, Smith, Shaffer, & Morrey,1998).

Several aspects of social support are influential to an athlete’s outcomes in injury rehabilitation. Eight types of social support are hypothesized to aid athletes in different ways throughout the injury rehabilitation process (Corbillon, Crossman, & Jamieson, 2008; Johnston & Carroll, 1998): listening support, emotional support, emotional challenge, task appreciation, task challenge, reality confirmation, personal assistance, and tangible support. Previous research has shown that throughout injury rehabilitation athletes’ perceptions of these types of support change based on the athlete’s perceived needs (Bianco, 2001; Johnston & Carroll, 1998).

Not only do athletes rely on different types of social support during injury rehabilitation, but also rely on specific sources or individuals to provide that support (Albinson & Petrie, 2003). Previous findings have highlighted that athletes will rely on specific sources (i.e., coaches, athletic trainers, and teammates) for different types of social support during injury rehabilitation (Bianco, 2001; Clement & Shannon, 2011; Corbillon et al., 2008; Johnston & Carroll, 1998)

The purpose of this study was to examine potential differences for expected and received social support prior to injury, after initial injury, and at the approximate midpoint of the injury rehabilitation process. A total of 25 (n= 14 males; 13 females) male and female, intercollegiate athletes participated in this study. Participants from this study were male and female athletes competing in NCAA Division I and III collegiate athletics. Athletes were recruited after incurring an injury lasting a minimum of 3 weeks and undergoing injury rehabilitation from one of the athletic trainers. To measure athletes’ perceptions of social support during injury rehabilitation a modified version of the Social Support Survey (SSS) based on the parameters and definitions developed by Barefield and McCallister (1997), Richman, Rosenfeld and Hardy (1993), and Robbins and Rosenfeld (2001) was used. At Time 1, athletes were asked to answer perception of social support items related to their sport experience prior to injury; they were then asked to respond to the items based on their social support at the onset of the injury. At Time 2, athletes were asked to respond to the items based on their perceptions of social support at the approximate mid-point of the injury rehabilitation.

The results of this study showed that there were significant time and gender effects for social support expected and received from the head coach. For time, received task appreciation, task challenge expected and received, and expected emotional challenge significantly declined across the three time points. Athletes had a significant decrease in these three types of social support from the head coach across time. No time effects were significant for expectations or received social support from the athletic trainer.

Gender differences also emerged for social support from the head coach during injury rehabilitation. For listening support, male and female athletes differed significantly at the onset of injury; with females receiving more listening support. However, after injury, females had a significant decrease and males saw an increase at the same time points. Female athletes also emerged as having higher expectations of emotional challenge support from the head coach than male athletes at the onset of injury. No gender differences emerged for expected or received social support from the athletic trainer.

The findings of the current study identify the need to better define the individualized social support needs of male and female injured athletes in injury rehabilitation. Research suggests that the perceptions of social support provided by coaches and athletic trainers influence athletes’ injury rehabilitation. Athletic trainers have shown to be consistent providers of social support for athletes. Coaches need to continue to be a presence in injured athletes’ recovery by providing the necessary support; this may include individualizing the needs based on the gender of the athletes.

Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science


School of Health, Physical Education, and Leisure Services


Division of Athletic Training

First Advisor

Windee Weiss, Chair

Date Original


Object Description

1 PDF file (viii, 103 pages)



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