BACKGROUND & OBJECTIVE
Current physiotherapy programs equip us with the skills to treat many physical consequences of injury, but we are often left without sufficient training to manage the psychological ones. Particularly following sports injuries, there is evidence to suggest that athletes may experience a wide range of psychological consequences (e.g. depression, frustration, anger, poor confidence or self-efficacy, a loss of identity) which can negatively impact their rehabilitation (1). With better training, sports physiotherapists could address these psychological consequences more effectively to ensure a successful return to sport and promote long-term health following an injury.
The primary objective of this mixed methods systematic review was to understand how sports physiotherapists incorporate psychological strategies for their injured athletes during rehabilitation. This included examining the attitudes of and challenges faced by sports physiotherapists when implementing these strategies.
Studies were included if they investigated at least one psychological strategy used by sports physiotherapists during rehabilitation. A psychological strategy was defined as techniques including (but not limited to) goal setting, imagery, visualization, social support, cognitive behavioural therapy, self-talk, positive reinforcement, relaxation, or coping strategies. Any studies involving physiotherapy students or other medical professionals (e.g. athletic trainers, sport psychologists) were excluded. Methodological quality assessment was appraised using the Guidelines for Critical Review Form (GCRF). Key themes were derived from the data using a thematic analysis.
Six quantitative, three qualitative, and two mixed-methods studies were eligible for data analysis and synthesis. These studies included 1440 sports physiotherapists who were mostly based in the United Kingdom or Australia and treated professional athletes. All studies were evaluated to