A longitudinal examination of athletes' emotional and cognitive responses to anterior cruciate ligament injury

Michael A. Morrey, Michael J. Stuart, Aynsley M. Smith, Diane M. Wiese-Bjornstal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

134 Scopus citations


Objective: To determine the emotional and cognitive impact of injury and surgery on physical recovery in injured athletes. Design: A prospective longitudinal study comparing the psychosocial and physical recovery of competitive and recreational athletes. Setting: Tertiary-care sports medicine center. Participants: Twenty-seven athletes (15 men and 12 women) who required anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction surgery. Interventions: A repeated-measures design used to compare the psychosocial and physical changes for 6 months after ACL surgery. Main Outcome Measures: Emotional (mood) and cognitive (coping) functions and physical recovery (range of motion, physician-rated level of recovery, and physician permission to return to sport). Results: There was a significant time-effect difference in mood, with a greater mood disturbance and recovery rate for competitive athletes than recreational athletes. Differences in mood and pain coping were significant at 2 weeks and 2 months after surgery. Conclusion: Athletes experience significant mood changes throughout rehabilitation, which may hinder rehabilitation early in the process. Longer-term rehabilitation was not impacted by mood or pain coping. Future studies might focus on examining the process over a longer time period (1-2 years after surgery). Physicians should be aware of these findings and appropriately counsel and motivate athletes toward more favorable positive psychological and physical outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)63-69
Number of pages7
JournalClinical Journal of Sport Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1999


  • Anterior cruciate ligament
  • Mood
  • Pain, coping
  • Psychological processes
  • Surgery, anterior cruciate ligament


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