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Example Sports Essay

Injured athletes use of self-talk.

A sports injury can be serious andcause profound physical and emotional distress. The physical aspects of theinjury can even contribute to loss of a sports career. The emotional stress ofa sports injury can result in affects such as anxiety and depression which resultin obstacles to healing and future performance (Myers,Peyton & Jensen, 2004). After injury most athletes will suffer from a changein their mood for a short length of time. This change in mood will manifest asanger, depression, tension, and low energy levels. Normally the athletereturns to their pre-injury mental status once they are on their way torecovery (McDonald & Hardy, 1990)

Sports injuries can have adevastating impact on athletes and the search for effective psychologicalrehabilitation methods have been ongoing. One study using the open-ended SportsInjury Survey found that athletes that healed the fastest engaged in more positiveself-talk, goal setting and healing imagery than slower healing athletes. Itwas found that the mental strategy of goal setting was the most productivetechnique and scientists believe the reason for this is that it is easy tolearn and is within the athlete's control. The results of the study wouldsuggest that there are numerous psychological factors that play an importantrole in injury recovery. A number of other studieshave demonstrated that speed of recovery was effected by goal setting,attitude, imagery, social support, and coping skills (Ievleva & Orlick,1991). One study demonstrated that imagerycan be helpful in injury rehabilitation. Imagery is used often in training andcompetition, but athletes don't use it as often for recovery from healing andneed to be reminded of its efficacy (Sordoni, Hall & Forwell, 2000)

It has been found that an athlete's inability to return topre-injury performance levels was due to psychological factors and stressors ratherthan physical ones (Evans, Harding & Fleming,2000). One of the factors with animpact on performance levels post-injury is the athlete's perceived inabilityto demonstrate the same skills they enjoyed pre-injury. One example of this isa rugby player who returned to the game after suffering a shoulder injury. Hefavored the injured shoulder and used the other shoulder more frequently. Theresult of this behavior was that he put extra pressure on the one shouldersetting himself up for future injuries (Evans et al.,2000). When an athlete returns to the game before they are truly readythe risk for more injures or re-injury is increased. Even if an athlete hasbeen told by his sports physician that they can return to competition they maynot be ready psychologically (Evans et al., 2000). Cupal(1998) claims evidence exists that indicates when an athlete returns to thesport before they are psychologically ready they increase the risk of moreinjuries

There are different approaches to explaining howan athlete responds to injury. One of these approaches is designated thecognitive appraisal approach. This approach focuses on the athlete'sperception of the injury and it offers an explanation for individualdifferences in responses to injury and their perception of the injury (Brewer, 1994). Brewer (1994) believes that one of the positive aspectsregarding the cognitive appraisal approach is that it offers explanations forthe diverse responses to injuries unlike other methods that don't provide suchinsight. There are a number of influencing factors with cognitiveappraisal. The individual personality characteristics of the athlete thatremain constant over time are a factor. Another factor is the athlete's changeablesituation which they have no control of. One example of this is time of seasonof the injury (Gayman & Crossman, 2003).

A study of thepsychology of season ending injuries amongst skiers from the USA Ski Team wasconducted (Gould, Udry, Bridges & Beck, 1997a; Gould, Udry, Bridges &Beck, 1997b). This study included lengthy interviews and revealed differentfactors of the injury experience. Researchers discovered that some athletesreceived what they perceived were benefits from the injury. If they had a problem with the stress of the competition they maysee this injury as a blessing in disguise and a way out. Performance anxietycan be another reason why an athlete sees the injury as beneficial. Also,rehabilitation can be physically painful and emotionally trying (Gould et al., 1997a). Other factors researchers uncoveredwere the sources of stress, social support systems, and coping strategies. Insome instances a severe injury can interfere with social activities especially ifthey are sports-oriented (Bianco, Malo, & Orlick,1999). Bianco et al. (1999) interviewed skiers from the Canadian Alpine SkiTeam. What they learned was that there was an early phase when the athlete isinjured or ill and then they move into a phase of rehabilitation where theybegin to recover, and the last phase is when they are fully recovered and backto pre-injury activity. Every one of these phases included a set of events thatinfluenced the emotional and cognitive responses (Granito, 2001, pg. 63). Researchers looked to cognitive appraisal to explain why some athletes sufferfrom greater psychological distress following an injury than others (Brewer, 1994). What they found was that the mannerin which an athlete perceives the injury experience plays an important role inhow well they recover and are able to return to pre-injury performance levels (Brewer, 2001, as cited in Gayman & Crossman, 2003).

The time of the year when an athleteis injured may determine how well and fast they recover and return tocompetition. For example, one athlete may be distraught and stressed overbeing injured post-season because after all his hard work and team effort he willnot be able to participate in the play-offs. Another athlete may regard theinjury as beneficial because they can get out of a horrendous season where theteam didn't do very well. The athlete who perceives the injury in a morepositive light will have an easier time of recovery than the athlete whoexperiences more negative emotions surrounding the injury (Gayman & Crossman, 2003)

Pre-season is important because aftera break from sports the athletes are ready to get back in the game again andare looking forward to try-outs. An injury sustained pre-season can beregarded in different ways. The more severe the injury is the greater theathlete's frustration and disappointment (Gayman& Crossman, 2003). An injury that isn't serious enough to keep the athlete outfor the entire season may not be as devastating for some because they becomemotivated to heal and spend the rest of the season in the game. Different factorsenter the picture for mid-season injuries. An athlete who is out due toinjuries during mid-season can be more stressed because by this time the teammembers are bonding. The athlete will also have lost some of their physicalabilities that are important to the game. The team has been traveling andplaying many games together by mid-season and the injured athlete will feelthat they are missing out on the camaraderie and fun (Gayman& Crossman, 2003). When an athlete is injured end of season the success of theentire team may be hindered and this is a source of great stress anddisappointment for the athlete. If it's the athlete's last year of college, forexample, the injury could end his career in sports. If the injury is severeenough regardless the season; it is devastating for the athlete and requiresdifferent and more intense coping techniques (Gayman & Crossman, 2003). Finally, the playoffsare important because the team has bonded and worked hard together for anentire season to get that far. Injuries sustained during this time couldhamper efforts for the championship title not to mention the personal satisfactionof success (Gayman & Crossman 2003)

How an athletereacts to their injury may be based on how they personally view the situation.For instance, injury in pre-season may be regarded more negatively by oneathlete than another. It all depends on how they perceive the situation(Gayman & Crossman, 2003). There are different factors in the injuryrecovery process. One of those factors is gender differences. One study foundthere were differences in the perceptions of male and female injured athletes.It was found that male athletes had reported a more positive relationship withtheir coaches than the females. Males also were more apt to have a specialperson in their lives that they received emotional support from. It wasdiscovered that female athletes were more apt to worry about how their injurieswould affect their future health than the males (Granito, 2002). Regardless ofmale or female, it would appear that a good social support network and positiverelationships with coaches are important when an athlete sustains an injury. Thereare, however, more factors involved in the success of an athlete's rehabilitationand recovery than that of emotional support from others. Other interventionsand coping mechanisms involve goal setting, imagery, and self-talk (Ievleva& Orlick, 1991)

There are numerouspsychological intervention strategies for rehabilitation from sports relatedinjuries. Oftentimes the athletes' erroneous thoughts about intervention strategieskeep them away from getting the help they need to recover more quickly andfully. The interventions could help them return to competition not onlyphysically ready but psychologically ready as well. Due to a lack of knowledgeand understanding leading to faulty beliefs about intervention strategies theathlete doesn't always get the help they need. The efficacy of any post-injurytherapy or treatment depends on the ability of the athlete to accept andreceive different techniques and strategies (Myers etal., 2004).

One of the strategies in treatmentfor sports injuries that isn't fully understood is that of positive self-talk.Self-talk in injury recovery is even less understood than other techniques andstrategies even though athletes do use it for performance improvements.Athletes have used both self-talk that is instructional in nature and self-talkthat consists of positive affirmations (Van Raalte,Cornelius, Brewer, & Hatton, 2000). Self-talk has been recognizedas an effective tool for improvements in performance but unfortunately, has notbeen given as much thought as a strategy for recovery from injury. One reason thathas been given to explain why there is a lack of knowledge regarding self-talkand its importance to recovery from injury has to do with understanding thefundamentals behind performance improvement in sports(Hardy, 2005)

There is a relationship between performanceimprovements and self-talk. It has been suggested that it's the aspect ofself-talk that involves functionality that sheds light on its relationship withperformance. This includes the cognitive and motivational aspects of self-talk(Hardy, Gammage, & Hall, 2001a). Theodorakis,Weinberg, Natsis, Douma & Kazakas (2000) investigated the efficacy ofself-talk with athletes using positive self-talk in proportion to the specificdemands of their physical activity. Instructional self-talk was used for thetechnical demands and motivational self-talk was used for less technicaldemands such as the athlete's strength and stamina. The researchers expectedthat instructional self-talk would be more effective when the demands of theactivity involved skills and accuracy and the motivational self-talk would bemore effective when the demands involved strength and stamina. The resultsdemonstrated that instructional self-talk for technical demands met theresearcher's expectations, however when the demands were for motivationalself-talk the results weren't as expected (Hardy,2005). The researchers discovered that both types of self-talk generatedan increase in performance in the activity of leg extensions but not in theactivity of sit-ups which requires stamina. Theodorakis et al. (2000) believe onereason for this outcome is that there wasn't an equal distribution of males andfemales for the study thus affecting the results. Theodorakis et al. rightlycalls for more research in order to determine why positive self-talk (ornegative) impacts athletic performance (Hardy, 2005).

One factor that may impact theeffectiveness of self-talk on an athlete's performance is how they interprettheir self-talk as far as it relates to motivation. The athlete may regardtheir self-talk in either a negative or positive light (Hardy,Hall, & Alexander, 2001b). If an athlete regards their self-talk asde-motivating it certainly not help them recover faster and can even keep themfrom getting back to pre-injury performance levels. Theodorakis et al.(2000) explains that the lack of differences across groups in his study is thatthere are motivational aspects to the instructional self-talk and some of theself-talk used by the athletes may have been either motivating or de-motivating.Self-talk issupposed to be positive for the athlete. The attitude of the injured athleteis important to their recovery. If the athlete is optimistic their chances ofrecovery are greater and they have better coping mechanisms. Suggestionsto encourage the athlete are for them to use only positive words, languageand tone, during the rehabilitation-in and out of the clinic (Mind, Body, pg.1). Examples of positive self-talk are: "I will get through this""I will recover fully" "I will get back to playing my sport,better than I was before" "I will get 115 degrees of flexiontoday" (Mind, Body, 2005, pg. 1). These self-talk strategies will createa more positive and healthy mindset in the injured athlete (Mind, Body,2005). In a study with tennis players it was found that instructionalself-talk had a positive outcome on performance but not on self-efficacy (Landin & Hebert, 1999).  It is suggestedthen that practitioners determine if the athlete finds self-talk is to bede-motivating or motivating. An athlete can learn to perceive themselves in ahealthier and more self-affirming manner by engaging in positive self-talk(Hardy, 2005).

The speed with which an athlete recovers from injury can be increased by usingcertain mental strategies. It is up to the athlete and their physician todetermine, in light of the patient's situation and personal preferences, whatwould be the best strategy to ensure a rapid and full recovery from injury.The athlete and their sports doctor can be creative in coming up with whattechniques seem to fit. Special attention should be given to the psychologicalstate of the athlete and the seriousness of the injury. A comprehensiveapproach to injury management has been proven to be successful through researchsuggesting that by using more goal setting, positive self-talk, and imagery,athletes recover more quickly from injuries (Mind,Body, 2005, pg. 1)

Self-talk isuseful for injury recovery and quite often for the management of

physical pain and distressing emotionalstates. Self-talk is described as, .the endless stream of thoughts that runthrough your head every day (Chronic Pain, 2005, pg. 1). This self-talk orautomatic thinking can be positive or negative and based on logic andreason (Chronic Pain, 2005, pg. 1). There are times when self-talk can benegative and based on faulty perceptions due to inadequate information. Inorder for self-talk to be effective for recovery from injury the faultythinking must be recognized and changed. In order to recognize the faultythinking it's important to recognize the different categories of non-productivethinking. One method of thinking that is not positive self-talk isgeneralizing. An example of this is when the individual regards one event as atrigger for a never ending series of negative events. As the pain continuesthe individual thinks they will not be able to carry on as before and theybegin to devalue themselves. Another example of negative thinking is when theindividual thinks in terms of catastrophes. With this type of thinking theindividual imagines the worst case scenario. For example, they imagine thatthe pain from the injury will become a problem and they will become embarrassedif out in public or with friends (Chronic Pain, 2005). Another example ofcatastrophic thinking is when the athlete thinks things will never change andthey will never get any better (Lake, 2005). Polarizing is another thinkingstyle that leads to negative self-talk. This is when the individual seeseverything as black and white, good or bad, positive or negative. They cannotconcede that there is oftentimes a place in the middle. One of the moreserious consequences of this thinking is that the individual feels they have tobe perfect or else they are a failure; there is no acceptance of the fact thatthey are human like everyone else and can make mistakes while not seeing themselvesas losers. Filtering is when the individual looks at the negative thoughts ina situation through a magnifying glass and minimizes the positive thoughts.One example given of this is when the individual did a great job at work thatday but when they get home they realize they forgot to do one thing. Theentire evening is ruined because the individual sits there and ruminates onthat one task they failed to do. All the accolades they received that day fromboss and co-workers is forgotten and only the negative is focused upon.Another negative thinking pattern that leads to unhealthy self-talk is that ofpersonalizing. When something unpleasant, unfortunate, or bad happens theindividual thinks that they are blame, even if it's something out of theircontrol and has nothing to do with them. Emotionalizing is thinking where theheart rules the head. Objectivity is pushed aside for irrational thinking.One example of this is if an individual feels they are dull or stupid andtherefore they believe that is what they are (Chronic Pain, 2005).

This type of thinking is dangerousfor the athlete especially one who is recovering from an injury. The athletemust recognize the negative thinking and begin the exercise of positiveself-talk. An interesting rule of thumb regarding the process of positiveself-talk is as follows:

Don't say anything to yourself that you wouldn't say to someoneelse

Be gentle andencouraging. If a negative thought enters your mind, evaluate it rationally andrespond with affirmations of what is good

about yourself.Eventually your self-talk will automatically contain less self-criticism andmore self-acceptance. Your spontaneous thoughts will become more positive andrational. (Chronic Pain, 2005, pg. 1)

What people say to themselvesall too often sets the stage for how they look at life and what they do aboutit. One example of this is when the individual comes home after a day ofworking and says, I don't want to exercise today. It's cloudy outside, there'sno one to walk with, and besides, I've already exercised twice this week(Managing Your Pain, 2005, pg.1). A more positive way to respond to thissituation is to say, "I don't feel like exercising today, but I know I'llfeel better afterward and have an easier time falling asleep" (ManagingYour Pain, 2005, pg.1). These examples are very important in retraining themind to engage in positive self-talk. The self-talk one engages in canliterally change the way an individual experiences physical pain. Negativemessages can lead to increased pain, while positive messages can help distractyou from pain (Managing Your Pain, 2005, pg. 1)

There are several steps to take in order to changenegative self-talk that leads to increased pain into positive self-talk whichspeeds up the healing process and leads to decreased pain. The first of thesesteps is for the individual to make a list of all negative self-talk engagedin. The second step is to change each negative statement on the list into apositive statement. One example would be the following,I'm tired and don'tfeel like attending my support group tonight, but if I don't go I might missout on some good tips like the ones  I learned last month. I can alwaysleave the meeting a little early" (Managing Your Pain, 2005, pg. 1). Thethird step is to practice the positive self-talk. Even though it doesn't comenaturally and may take some time to become comfortable with keep at it until itbecomes second nature (Managing Your Pain, 2005, pg. 1).

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