Background Information

It's completely normal for young athletes to struggle with uncertainties as they progress through rehabilitation and transition back into competition. It's important that heath care professionals, parents and coaches have an understanding of the psychological challenges that may arise.The transitional issues a young athlete may face are related to concerns about competence, autonomy and relatedness which are highlighted in a theory known as self-determination theory (SDT). This theory helps in explaining what motivates an athlete during the rehabilitation process. It can be used as a guide for athletic trainers, coaches and parents when looking to guide their athletes and intervene when necessary.

Self-determination theory (SDT) Defined:

SDT not only explains what motivates an athlete after sustaining injury, but it identifies the role an athletes' external environment play in facilitating recovery which may help limit post injury mood disturbances. The environment must satisfy the basic psychological needs of competence, autonomy and relatedness to promote positive performance outcomes and overall well-being.


The internal locus of causality and the belief that ones’ actions are self-endorsed.Concerns include:

  • Pressure to return to sport before physically or mentally prepared.


The sense of ability or proficiency in one's undertakings.Concerns include:

  • Addressing re-injury anxiety

  • Restoring confidence in performance abilities

  • Minimizing self-presentation concerns


The perception of interconnectedness with others and social integrations.Concerns include:

  • Tendency to isolate or alienate themselves from sports

  • Tendency to shut out those close to them