Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Master of Arts




Prapavessis, Harry


According to the revised stress-injury model (Williams & Andersen, 1998), greater life stress predicts greater vulnerability to athletic injury, with this relationship being strongest among athletes exhibiting competitive anxiety, less social support, and non-adaptive coping skills. This study tested the validity of this model among collegiate cheerleaders, an injury-prone athlete group. Ninety-two collegiate cheerleaders recorded instances of injury over 12 weeks. Measures of life stress, competitive anxiety, coping style, social support, and previous injury were obtained. Heightened negative life stress did not coincide with greater injury. A positive stress-injury relationship was observed among cheerleaders reporting high avoidance coping. A negative stress-injury relationship was present among cheerleaders reporting more previous injuries and lower avoidance coping. Worry, social support, concentration disruption, and problem coping demonstrated null moderating effects. Results for somatic anxiety were inconclusive. Future research should include larger samples to better study the conjunctive effects of moderators on the stress-injury relationship.

Summary for Lay Audience

In competitive sports, athletes experience stress from many sources within and outside of their discipline. According to the revised stress-injury model, athletes that perceive greater stress in their lives are prone to experiencing a “stress response” during important sporting events. This reaction consists of multiple symptoms including muscle tension, blurred vision, and distractibility, which can deteriorate performance and increase injury susceptibility. Highly stressed athletes are increasingly likely to exhibit a stress response if they have a history of injuries, fewer social support outlets (i.e. family, friends), are anxious before performing, and tend to avoid and deny pressing issues. Collegiate athletes experience higher rates of injury than recreational athletes. An emerging discipline in the collegiate sporting scene is competitive cheerleading. For their sport, cheerleaders perform gymnastic maneuvers, build human pyramids, and throw and catch each other throughout two-and-ahalf minute routines. These athletes face tremendous physical dangers but have relatively little equipment to mitigate their injury risk. The aim of this study was to see whether psychosocial factors and previous injury predict greater subsequent injury among these athletes. We expected athletes with more negatively perceived life stress to sustain more injuries during the study period. A group of 92 collegiate cheerleaders from multiple teams participated. They recorded instances of injury on electronic surveys emailed to them each week for twelve weeks during their season. They also completed surveys that measured their stress, anxiety, previous injury, social support, and coping style. Overall, cheerleaders that reported greater life stress did not sustain more injuries than those reporting lower life stress. Interestingly, greater life stress was found to coincide with increased injury number among cheerleaders that reported high use of avoidance-type coping. Conversely, greater life stress coincided with decreases in injury number among cheerleaders with a high amount of previous injuries. No other factor demonstrated a reliable influence on injury number. We experienced some issues with athletes not self-reporting their injuries, however it is very difficult to have third parties do this for cheerleaders. Future studies should include more participants to properly test how certain combinations of factors predict injury occurrence in collegiate cheerleaders.