Sports injury and stressor-related disorder in competitive athletes: A systematic review and a new framework

Sophie Xin YANG, Siyu CHENG, Diana Linyi SU

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Background: For professional athletes, sports injury has been considered one of the most influential factors determining their athletic careers' duration and quality. High-intensity training and competitiveness of the sports competition are perhaps critical causes of sports-related stress. This article reviews the relevant research on sports injuries and stressor-related disorders. Further, it explores the following three issues in depth: (1) Do physical injuries caused by competitive sports lead to acute or posttraumatic stress disorder for athletes? What are the abnormal stress responses? (2) What diagnoses are currently available for sports injury related traumatic stress disorder? (3) What kinds of psychological rehabilitation are available for trauma-related symptoms in sports injury? How efficient are they in alleviating these symptoms? 

Methods: The study searched electronic databases, including PubMed, MEDLINE, CINAHL, etc. And reference lists of included papers were also screened. Two researchers selected the literature strictly according to the inclusion criteria and sorted them out. Based on the proved conclusions, the study established a new framework to manage traumatic stress disorders after the injury occurred. 

Results: 16 articles were included in the study. (Q1: N = 10; Q2: N = 3; Q3: N = 3) The findings of this review suggested that athletes who suffer from sports injuries are more likely to experience abnormal physiological or psychological stress responses, which may become a massive challenge for athletes to continue their sports careers at a competitive level. However, there is a minimal understanding of addressing sports injury-related traumatic stress disorder from a biological perspective. Thus, it is challenging to build a scientific basis for diagnosis, screening, and treatment. In addition, the current diagnostic tool for athletes stress disorder still heavily relies on subjective measurement, and the treatment plan is not different from that of the general population. 

Conclusions: It highlighted that sports-related stress disorder could be the greatest challenge to return to competition for injured athletes. The present study indicated the importance of systematically identifying the symptoms of sports-related stress disorder and improving the current diagnosis and treatment system. Copyright © 2022 The Author(s). Published by Oxford University Press.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbertkac017
JournalBurns & Trauma
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022


Yang, S. X., Cheng, S., & Su, D. L. (2022). Sports injury and stressor-related disorder in competitive athletes: A systematic review and a new framework. Burns & Trauma, 10. Retrieved from


  • Stressor-related disorder
  • PTSD
  • Sports injury
  • Athletes
  • PG student publication


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