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Sport Psychology: Rehabilitating the Mind

By: Mark Wolfe, MS, LAT, ATC, FMS

Sport psychology is a proficiency that uses mental strategies to enhance athletic performance, cope with the pressures of competition, recover from injuries, and improve the overall well-being of athletes. How does sport psychology impact the role of an athletic trainer during the rehabilitation phase of an injury? Are athletic trainers equipped with the skills to identify and manage psychosocial distress? What resources are available for athletes when it comes to sport psychology?

Athletic trainers are in an ideal position as a sports medicine professional when it comes to sport psychology because they are in constant contact with the athlete. They can be a resource to educate and assist the athlete with both the psychosocial and physical processes of injury recovery. Most athletic trainers are skilled enough to identify psychological distress in the injured athlete. But, they aren’t always equipped with the skills to handle or deliver the proper techniques of psychosocial strategy. This highlights the need for more coursework in athletic training education programs to focus on sport psychology and more continuing education opportunities for those athletic trainers who are already practicing.

High school athletic trainers have daily interactions with their athletes, but don’t always have the resources to refer to a sport psychologist, unlike athletic trainers in the college or professional setting. In these cases, it is important that this part of the rehabilitative process is taken into consideration by the athletic trainer when dealing with an injured athlete. Athletic trainers must do their best to stay current with new strategies and methods in sport psychology to help guide our athletes through the rehabilitative process. Athletic trainers are no longer only needed for the physical aspects of an injury but also the mental aspect.

Many of the athletic trainers in schools around Hampton Roads are part of the CHKD sports medicine team, which also offers mental health services, and have the resources and ability to refer to sports medicine physicians, or a sport psychologist, where appropriate.


  1. Monna Arvinen-Barrow, William V. Massey, and Brian Hemmings (2014) Role of Sport Medicine Professionals in Addressing Psychosocial Aspects of Sport-Injury Rehabilitation: Professional Athletes' Views. Journal of Athletic Training: Nov/Dec 2014, Vol. 49, No. 6, pp. 764-772.
  2. Marc L. Cormier and Sam J. Zizzi (2015) Athletic Trainers' Skills in Identifying and Managing Athletes Experiencing Psychological Distress. Journal of Athletic Training: December 2015, Vol. 50, No. 12, pp. 1267-1276.

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About CHKD Sports Medicine  CHKD's sports medicine program offers the most comprehensive care for your young athlete. From diagnosis and treatment to customized rehabilitation plans, we specialize in physical therapy and injury prevention programs for active children and teens. Our team is composed of pediatric orthopedic surgeons, sports medicine specialists, physician assistants, certified athletic trainers and pediatric sports medicine physical therapists.