The Impact of Character Strengths and Wellbeing on Sporting Injury
Positive psychology is a relatively new branch of psychology which focuses on helping individuals to flourish and function optimally. Because of the relatively recent advance of positive psychology, it has not been fully explored, and one area which may benefit from the application of positive psychology is the discipline of sport psychology. The goals of this research were to assess whether certain character strengths were associated with injury incidence and whether wellbeing predicted injury incidence. Further aims were to examine the character strength profile of recreational athletes, and compare this to normative data, and to measure injury incidence in amateur rugby, hockey and football players around a large urban area in New Zealand. A sample of athletes who play rugby, hockey and football were administered the VIA Character Strength Inventory, as well as completing the Work on Wellbeing survey. A self-report measure of injury was also included, which was completed by the athletes at the end of their sporting season. Results indicated that leadership and humour were significantly associated with the number of injuries sustained by athletes, whilst the self-rated health measure was associated with the number of sessions missed during the season, due to injury. Wellbeing was not related to any injury outcome. Across the sample, character strength scores were largely similar, with the chief difference observed being the ranking of bravery by rugby players which was higher than that of hockey or football players. There were also some differences noted in the ranking of strengths between this sample of athletes and a large, national sample from a larger study. This was unexpected given previous evidence which indicates that the ranking of character strengths should be largely ubiquitous. Finally, injury data in this study differed from similar, existing research findings, however reviews on the topic of injury incidence in sport reveal low concordance across data or method, and so differences between the data from this study and previous studies is not wholly unexpected. It is hypothesized that a relationship exists whereby athletes who score highly in leadership also display high levels of motivation and commitment to their sport, which leads them to partake in risky behaviour on the sports field, resulting in higher injury incidence. These athletes are then more likely to form a negative cognitive appraisal surrounding this injury, which leads to negative recovery outcomes. A positive feedback loop could occur where athletes are more likely to sustain an injury, become injured, and then their history of injury, as well as personal and situational factors potentially predispose them to more injuries in the future. Future research may wish to consolidate upon the work of this study by further investigating the potential link between leadership and injury, as this could have widespread application in the sporting world, for both athletes and coaches seeking to reduce injuries and ameliorate injury risk.