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Open Communication for Athlete Injuries

A culture of toughness discourages reports of pain and injury.

Open communication prevents athlete injuries

Trainers may want to prioritize cultivating a nonjudgmental atmosphere of open communication, particularly when training elite-level athletes, to ensure honest conversations about pain and injury. In a study of high-performance rowers in Ireland, researchers noted that many athletes felt compromised by lower-back pain but did not feel they could speak openly and honestly about their condition for fear of being excluded from the sport.

Many athletes continued to compete and train in pain, potentially putting them at greater risk for poor pain outcomes and heightened negative experiences. A rower’s experience of lower-back pain can lead to isolation and have a profound impact on the athlete’s life beyond sport. Some rowers, however, reported being in a system where openness was encouraged—they regarded this as leading to better health outcomes.

Study authors noted that athletes and support staff “should be educated regarding benefits of early disclosure and rowers should be supported to do so without judgement.” The research appeared in the British Journal of Sports Medicine (2020; doi:10.1136/bjsports-2020-102514).

See also: Communication Skills of the Successful Personal Trainer

Question of the Month: Open Communication?

Open communication for personal trainers

As a fitness professional, what techniques or strategies do you use to facilitate an atmosphere of authentic, open communication with clients? If you are a program director or manager, what guidance or trainings do you offer your professional staff to improve communications? Have you, through experience, developed any best practices? Tell us about your experiences and the lessons you’ve learned.

We want to hear from you! Email executive editor Joy Keller, [email protected].

Shirley Archer-Eichenberger, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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