The psychosocial impact of ACL tear injury in collegiate male and female athletes
Mazur, Kelsey LaSage
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BACKGROUND: Poor mental health and the varying stressors that provoke psychological disturbance are considerable issues that plague the United States young adult population. Within the collegiate student-athlete cohort, where athletes are subjected to unique pressures placed on them secondary to performance demands, significant injury such as an ACL tear requiring surgical reconstruction and a rigorous rehabilitation course remains a major contributor to psychological and physical disruption. Females in particular may be at higher risk of psychological instability due to hormonal and personality factors, increased injury rates, and gender bias that still exists in the collegiate sports world. LITERATURE REVIEW FINDINGS: Despite recognition of the mental health sequelae of injury in this cohort, sports medicine personnel report discomfort in approaching emotional difficulties and mentoring athletes on the utilization of psychological skills. In conjunction, referral to sports psychologists remains low. The use of a universal self-report survey can help athletes and sports medicine providers acknowledge the psychological impact of injury and take proactive action to provide the athlete with the necessary psychological support needed to fully recover and return to play. PROPOSED PROJECT: The goal of this cross-sectional study is to use a previously validated psychometric tool to assess and compare differences in acute psychological response to ACL tear in male and female collegiate soccer players. If there is a consistent gender disparity observed based on survey scores, sports medicine specialists could develop heightened awareness toward a specific gender that is at high-risk for psychological instability following injury and provide immediate psychological intervention if an event occurs. CONCLUSIONS: The use of a psychometric survey to assess mental health in the collegiate athlete population should be standard practice. If used correctly, the tool has the ability to assess injury response and the need for psychological intervention for all athletes suffering from chronic injuries. The benefits are widespread among all parties of the sports medicine team and the end result is increased stability and mental well-being within the athletic environment. SIGNIFICANCE: The clinical significance of the study extends beyond identifying gender and demographic risk factors and aims to stress the importance of recognizing psychological distress following injury and the necessity of appropriate psychological intervention in a large population of student-athletes across the country.