Understanding fear after an anterior cruciate ligament injury: a qualitative thematic analysis using the commons-sense model

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Little, Cameron ORCID: 0000-0003-3167-5230, Lavender, Andrew P ORCID: 0000-0001-6222-880X, Starcevich, Cobie, Mesagno, Christopher ORCID: 0000-0001-9417-4359, Mitchell, Tim, Whiteley, Rodney, Bakhshayesh, Hanieh and Beales, Darren ORCID: 0000-0002-7176-4644 (2023) Understanding fear after an anterior cruciate ligament injury: a qualitative thematic analysis using the commons-sense model. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 20 (4). ISSN 1661-7827


Fear is a significant factor affecting successful return to sport following an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury. However, there is a lack of understanding of the emotional drivers of fear and how fear beliefs are formed. This study qualitatively explored the contextual and emotional underpinnings of fear and how these beliefs were formed, with reference to the Common-Sense Model of Self-Regulation. Face-to-face online interviews were conducted with ACL-injured participants (n = 18, 72% female) with a mean age of 28 years (range 18–50 years). Participants were either 1 year post ACL reconstruction surgery (n = 16) or at least 1 year post injury without surgery (n = 2) and scored above average on a modified Tampa Scale of Kinesiophobia. Four participants were playing state-level sport or higher. Five themes emerged describing factors contributing to fear: ‘External messages’, ‘Difficulty of the ACL rehabilitation journey’, ‘Threat to identity and independence’, ‘Socioeconomic factors’, and ‘Ongoing psychological barriers’. A sixth theme, ‘Positive coping strategies’, provided insight into influences that could reduce fear and resolve negative behaviors. This study identified a broad range of contextual biopsychosocial factors which contribute to fear, supporting the notion that ACL injuries should not be treated through a purely physical lens. Furthermore, aligning the themes to the common-sense model provided a conceptual framework conveying the inter-related, emergent nature of the identified themes. The framework provides clinicians with a means to understanding fear after an ACL injury. This could guide assessment and patient education.

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Item type Article
URI https://vuir.vu.edu.au/id/eprint/46929
DOI 10.3390/ijerph20042920
Official URL https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/20/4/2920
Subjects Current > FOR (2020) Classification > 4207 Sports science and exercise
Current > Division/Research > Institute for Health and Sport
Keywords ACL injury, fear after injury, rehabilitation, anterior cruciate ligament, qualitative data
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