Injury Contagion in Alpine Ski Racing: The Effect of Injury on Teammates’ Performance

in Journal of Clinical Sport Psychology

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Daniel Fulham O’NeillThe Alpine Clinic

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Season-ending injuries, particularly those to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), continue to occur at a high rate in many sports. Although multiple factors are thought to contribute to this injury rate, no study has looked at possible psychological influences. Therefore, the present hypothesis suggests that there exists an emotional trauma that affects athletes after seeing someone in their own sport sustain a serious injury. This traumatic response could result in a change in performance tactics that could result in injury to oneself (“injury contagion”). Students numbering 459 (N= 459; 277 males and 182 females) from four ski academies were studied. Results from psychological testing showed an increase in the use of fear words and phrases after injury to a teammate. As a result, it is recommended that coaches and other personnel maintain a heightened awareness of teammates’ emotions after a team member sustains a significant injury.

Daniel Fulham O’Neill, MD, EdD, is with The Alpine Clinic in Holderness, NH. E-mail:

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