What is an Athletic “Injury”? Definition and Measurement Issues

Megan Granquist, University of La Verne, USA

Theme: Injury/trauma/rehabilitation

Poster Number: 118

Program ID: POS-2

Presentation: October 4, 2013 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm

Room: Napoleon


Injury has received attention in the sport psychology literature, particularly psychosocial aspects related to injury. However, the definition and measurement of injury is inconsistent, or in some cases non-existent, across the published literature. The purpose of this research presentation is twofold: 1) highlight problems existing within the literature related to the definition and measurement of injury, 2) share qualitative findings of athletes’ injury definitions. For part one, a search using the term “injury” was conducted (databases: Academic Search Premier, PsychINFO, SPORTDiscus) for the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology (JASP), the Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology (JSEP), and The Sport Psychologist (TSP). After cleaning the raw search to include only empirical papers using injury as a research variable (JASP = 12, JSEP = 10, TSP = 22), themes related to injury definition and measurement were: 1) time loss from training or competition, 2) physical damage, 3) specific measures (e.g., NAIRS, AIS, CDC), 4) specific injury types (e.g., ACL tear), and 5) hypothetical injury scenarios. For part two, 92 athletes (47 male, 45 female, 1 no report; mean age 19.6 years) responded to the question: “How do you define Injury?”. Qualitative analysis revealed the following themes: 1) Pain, 2) Mechanical/Tissue Damage, 3) Sport-related function, 4) Non-sport-related function. Taking into consideration the definitions and measurement of injury in the literature, coupled with athletes’ definition of injury, it is clear that a reliable definition of injury and its measurement have not been established. The lack of consistent definition and measurement of injury hinders research (Petrie & Falkstein, 1998) and practical application of research findings. Researchers and practitioners should seek research that clarifies its variables so that dependable conclusions may be drawn. This will ensure a clearer picture of the injury process and lead to improved well-being, physically and mentally, of athletes with injury.

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