There is an extensive body of research indicating that social support can contribute to health and well-being by reducing exposure to stress and enhancing coping efforts. The mechanisms underlying this relationship remain poorly understood, however, and confusion abounds as to the nature of social support. This paper examines some of the major conceptual issues relevant to the study of social support in the context of sport injury. Specific issues addressed include differences between (a) support activities and support messages, (b) perceived support and received support, and (c) support networks, support behaviors, and appraisals of support. The discussion includes an examination of the general and sport-specific social support research. Gaps in the research are identified and suggestions are made throughout the paper for investigating social support issues in sport.
The authors are with the Dept. of Human Movement & Exercise Science, The University of Western Australia, Nedlands, Western Australia 6907.