Urban Johnson

Halmstad University, Sweden

Urban Johnson is Professor in Sport & Exercise Psychology at Halmstad University, Sweden. He has an elite-trainer certificate in handball, in which he has worked as a coach for many years. Besides playing handball and soccer at younger ages, he has a long history as a runner, cyclist and a triathlete. His main research focus is about psychological aspects of sports injury, prevention, rehabilitation and intervention. He also conducts research in areas such as health psychology and exercise science. Dr. Johnson has vast experience in working with applied sport psychology, especially for team sport athletes in elite contexts such as soccer, handball and volleyball. He has been a member of the Medical Committee at the Swedish Football Federation since 2001, and he was a member of the managing council of FEPSAC 2003-2011. Currently Dr. Johnson is a member of the scientific committee at the Swedish National Centre for Research in Sports.

Mental health in elite athletes: the case of sport injury rehabilitation

Urban Johnson

University of Halmstad, Sweden 

Mental health issue related to injury rehabilitation in elite sport is a growing research and applied area. In this lecture, I will share some reflections about this issue. A future and exciting research direction, which has so far generated limited investigations within sport injury rehabilitation, is about mindfulness practices for long-term injured competitive athletes. Evidence shows positive effects of mindfulness on stress, anxiety, depressive symptoms, emotional and behavioral regulation in adults and on self-confidence, quality of life, and pain acceptance in non-athletic populations of adults in rehabilitation. Some of the mechanisms for these favorable outcomes are connected to monitoring, acceptance, decentering, and exposure.

Moreover, research and applied practice has underlined the importance of creating a team climate that fosters open, productive, and autonomy-supportive communication, as well as meeting the wider social support needs of injured athletes. In this context, it is important to emphasize encouraging and helping athletes to view their injuries as positive developmental experiences. This approach has the potential to facilitate sport-injury-related growth, increase athletes’ self-efficacy and mood states, restore self-confidence, and reduce the intensity and frequency of re-injury anxiety among competitive and elite sport settings. More examples of future research and applied recommendation will be presented.