Do Exercisers With Musculoskeletal Injuries Report Symptoms of Depression and Stress?

in Journal of Sport Rehabilitation
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Context: Sports injuries in athletes can lead to negative emotional responses in terms of anger, anxiety, confusion, and sadness. Severe injuries can be understood as a stressful life event with increased levels of psychological distress, but injury assessment and rehabilitation typically focus on somatic symptoms. Objective: The primary aim of this study was to estimate the prevalence of depression and emotional stress and to measure self-rated health in regular exercisers presenting to a sports medicine clinic with musculoskeletal injury. The secondary aim was to identify psychosocial factors associated with depression in injured exercisers and the potential need for psychological counseling. Design: A cross-sectional survey study. Setting: A sports medicine clinic for injuries of the foot, knee, or shoulder. Participants: Regular exercisers with present injuries (N = 694) and exercisers without injuries (N = 494). Regular exercisers were defined as those undertaking moderate exercise at least once a week. Intervention: A questionnaire survey completed on paper by patients in a sports medicine clinic and a web-based version completed by online sports communities. Main Outcome Measures: Participants completed the Major Depression Inventory, Perceived Stress Scale, health-related quality of life, and questions on sociodemographics, exercise habits, and injury history. Results: Symptoms of depression were reported by 12% of injured exercisers and 5% of noninjured controls (P < .001). Clinical stress was found in 30% of injured exercisers and 22% of controls (P = .002), and the EQ-5D-5L Visual Analog Scale score was lower for injured (69 [SD = 19]) than noninjured exercisers (87 [SD = 13], P < .001). Injured exercisers with symptoms of depression reported high stress levels and impaired daily functioning, were younger, and were more likely to have over 10 days injury-related work absence. Conclusions: The authors recommend psychological assessment of exercisers attending a sports medicine clinic for musculoskeletal injury and a supplemental clinical psychological interview for suspected depression or stress-related psychopathology.

Lichtenstein is with the Department of Psychology, University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark. Lichtenstein and Bojesen are with the Mental Health Services in the Region of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark. Gudex is with the Department of Clinical Research, University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark. Andersen is with the Institute of Health Services, University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark. Jørgensen is with the Orthopaedic Research Unit, Odense University Hospital, Odense, Denmark.

Lichtenstein (mia@mialic.dk) is corresponding author.
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