Review: The influence of injury on group interaction processes

Surya, M., Benson, A. J., Balish, S. M., & Eys, M. A. (2015). The Influence of Injury on Group Interaction Processes. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 27(1), 52-66.

By: Rachel Webb


There are a few integrative models that are being used in the sport psychology world to address the different biopsychosocial aspects of injury, but the significance of this article is that it reveals another aspect of injury that is often neglected. The influence of injury on group interaction processes looks at the athletes from a phenomenological perspective and reveals the effects of injury not on the injured athlete but on their surrounding environment, specifically their team. Based upon athletes described experiences this study focused on the intersection of personal injury and the group processes throughout an injury process. Using their experiences athletes sought to interpret the changes the team underwent following an injury. Carron and Eys’s (2012) framework that has been used to study sports groups reveals several ways an injured athletes teammates may be affected such as the general environment change, group structure (roles), cohesion (unity), group processes (leadership), and individual or group outcomes. Surya, Benson, Balish, and Eys (2015) explored these highlighted aspects of team change through interviews seeking the perspective of both athletes who have been injured and who have been on a team with a teammate who suffered an injury. The study provided three areas of focus, the group-level and individual-level adjustments, how the return of an injured athlete influences the group, and how the group environment facilitates/hinders an athlete’s rehabilitation sequence. The findings within these three parameters offer insight into how an injury can have broad implications within sport teams characterized by task interdependence. Athletes used for this study were basketball players therefore the findings do not have external validity beyond a task interdependent sport teams. The first aspect of change that the study brought forth was the need to adjust the roles as a teammate to account for the absence of the person (taking into consideration the injured players status on the field and the coaches’ involvement). The change in role responsibility had a noticeable effect on the emotional climate of the team; both positive and negative reactions can be interpreted from newly formed roles with the absence of a injured player. These new roles also have a domino effect that reflected the team strategy on the court, which could provide certain athletes with more or less opportunities as an individual performer. Role ambiguity may also fluctuate again when said injured athlete returns to play. All of these transition periods can be maneuvered much more smoothly with an increase in communication on behalf of the coaches as well as the team as a whole, as supported through the interviews. Beyond role responsibility there is also a shift in social pressures that include pressure on the athlete to return, a questioning of the seriousness of the injury, and pressure on the coach to react to the event.

The perception that the athletes’ provided in this study revealed a great deal on the coach-player relationship, overall communication, role acceptance, and potential leadership issues. These aspects not only affect a team as a whole, but also the injured athlete themselves as they navigate their rehabilitation process. Recommendations are provided given the findings, which heavily support coaches’ involvement following the injury within a specific time frame in order to address role responsibility and potential leadership shifts. It is also recommended to have a proactive stance on injury and prepare a team for the shifts in emotional climate and team dynamics or tension that may occur with the absence of a teammate due to long-term injury.

DR. B Performance Psychology

DR. B Performance Psychology