This study examined the role of social support in the relationship between life stress and injury. Utilizing a prospective design, male and female collegiate athletes participating in the sports of volleyball, gymnastics, field hockey, soccer, cross-country, track and field, and wrestling completed the Athletic Life Experience Survey and the Support Functions Questionnaire. The results indicated that life stress and social support were predictive of injury frequency among male athletes. Specifically, injury frequency increased as the level of total life change and the number of providers of shared social reality support increased (direct effect). In addition, injury frequency was found to increase as negative life change and the number of providers of, and degree of fulfillment for, emotional challenge support decreased (buffer effect). No significant models emerged for female athletes or injury severity. The results of this study support a functional or disaggregated role for social support in the life stress/injury relationship.
C.J. Hardy is with the Dept. of Physical Education, Exercise and Sport Science, J.M. Richman is with the School of Social Work, and L.B. Rosenfeld is with the Dept. of Speech Communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC 27599.
The authors would like to acknowledge Mary Kirsanoff and William Prentice for their assistance in the data collection, and Kenneth Hardy for his assistance in the data analysis.