MENTAL HEALTH OF UNIVERSITY CLUB RUGBY PLAYERS FOLLOWING INJURY: IDENTIFYING RISK AND PROTECTIVE FACTORS
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Mental health, rather than mental illness, is an important area of focus within health promotion. Although sport participation has many health benefits, athletes are vulnerable to poor mental health following athletic injuries. By taking advantage of protective factors and limiting risk factors, athletes are able to maintain good mental health despite experiencing injuries. Factors present at each level of an adapted Socio-Ecological Model were explored using qualitative interviews with university club rugby players who have experienced moderate to severe injuries (n=11) and rugby coaches (n=2). A document review was also conducted exploring injury and mental health related information targeted towards student-athletes. Several risk and protective factors were identified and are presented in seven themes: athlete mental health profiles, injury characteristics in a mental health context, other individual level factors, interpersonal relationships, the team environment, the university context, and factors at the societal level.