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Using the Integrated Model of Response to Sport Injury as a theoretical framework, athletes’ psychological strengths and emotional responses were explored throughout the injury process using a case study approach. Four Division I athletes completed measures of mental toughness, hardiness, and optimism before their season (time 1), once they became injured (time 2), midway through rehabilitation (time 3), and when they were cleared to participate (time 4). Coping behavior, psychological response, and rehabilitation adherence were recorded at time 2–time 4, while recovering. In addition, interviews were conducted after time 4. Mental toughness, hardiness, and optimism varied over time and across cases, with broad individual differences in response to injury. Athletes experienced a loss of athletic identity combined with feelings of guilt and helplessness over the initial stages of injury, but positive experiences were also found. All cases also reported playing through injury. Understanding the psychological strengths and responses of athletes can help professionals work with injured athletes.
Leilani Madrigal is with the Nebraska Athletic Performance Lab, University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Diane L. Gill is with the Department of Exercise and Sport Science, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, NC.