Exploring Religiosity and Spirituality in Coping With Sport Injuries


Diane M. Wiese-Bjornstal, Kristin N. Wood, Andrew C. White, Amanda J. Wambach, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities; Victor J. Rubio, University of Autonoma Madrid

An extensive body of literature in psychology and medicine supports that religiosity/spirituality (R/S, Koenig, 2012) contributes to effectively coping with health challenges via cognitive, emotional, and behavioral mechanisms such as hope and optimism, stress management, social ties, and healthy lifestyles (Koenig, 2013). The purpose of this study was to explore the roles of R/S among athletes and other physically active individuals coping with the health challenges of sport injuries. A concurrent mixed methods research design using an online retrospective survey methodology incorporated quantitative measures of R/S (self-identified R/S affiliation, religious commitment), locus of health control for sport injury (multidimensional locus of health control, God locus of health control), and coping with sport injury (positive religious, negative religious, active, emotion, and maladaptive coping), and qualitative open-ended questions about the physical and mental challenges of sport injuries and the ways in which R/S affected and was affected by coping with these challenges. Participants included 49 physically active adults who reported experiencing sport injuries, with 37 self-identifying with a R/S affiliation (e.g., Christian, Muslim), and 12 indicating no R/S affiliation (e.g., atheist, agnostic). Quantitative results among R/S respondents showed a significant correlation between religious commitment (an individual’s commitment to religious beliefs, values, and practices in daily life) and God locus of health control for sport injury (GLHC-SI; a belief that God is in control of one’s sport injury recovery). GLHC-SI was significantly correlated with two adaptive ways of coping: positive religious coping with sport injuries (seeing the ways in which God is caring for me and strengthening me in this situation) and active coping with sport injuries (AC-SI; taking actions to improve the situation and looking for the good in what is happening). GLHC-SI was not correlated with maladaptive ways of coping with sport injuries (negative religious coping, maladaptive coping, emotion coping). Analyses of variance results examining differences between R/S and no-R/S individuals showed that no-R/S individuals rated themselves significantly higher on internal locus of health control for sport injuries, while R/S individuals rated themselves significantly higher on GLHC-SI and AC-SI. A thematic analysis of the open-ended responses regarding how R/S affected coping with sport injuries found six themes: prayer, others’ prayer, God’s plan, faith promoted positivity, negative spiritual coping, and no effect. Thematic analysis of responses regarding how sport injuries affected R/S resulted in five themes: reprioritize, positively/strengthen, negatively, withdrawal, and no effect. Future research will explore these findings within the context of specific R/S traditions.