Perception of Social Support in Injury Recovery and Return-to-Play Preparedness

A Pilot Study


  • Haleigh Gray Charleston Southern University
  • Alice McLaine Winthrop University
  • Martha Dettl-Rivera Winthrop University
  • Shelley Hamill Winthrop University
  • Ryan N. Moran The University of Alabama


mental health, rehabilitation, psychological stressors, college athletes


Psychological distress and mental health disorders have become a rising problem within the college student-athlete population. Social support may help mitigate psychological distress associated with suffering a sports-related injury and influence a successful recovery; however, little is known about the influence of social support and the sources of support throughout the injury recovery process. The purpose of this pilot study was to investigate perceived social support and its influence on recovery and return-to-play preparedness following time-loss due to injury using a mixed method approach. A total of 21 NCAA Division I collegiate, previously injured, student-athletes completed a social support survey, with five agreeing to a follow-up interview. Participants reported that athletic trainers and teammates provided more social support than coaches and identified them as a key factor in their recovery. Task-appreciation support, task-challenge support, listening support, and emotional support were the most prevalent types of social support experienced across satisfaction, availability, and contribution to overall well-being. Social support varies and should be considered by athletic trainers during rehabilitation and return-to-play. Our pilot findings identify a need to further explore the influence of social support in the injury recovery process using a more expansive mixed method approach.


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