Invictus Games launches sports psychology study

Article / September 22, 2017 / Project number: 17-0089

By Peter Mallett, The Lookout (Esquimalt)

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Halifax, Nova Scotia — A study investigating the role of adaptive sport in the rehabilitation of current and former military has been launched by researchers at Dalhousie University ahead of the Invictus Games Toronto 2017, which will be held from September 23 to 30.

Invictus Games officials announced their involvement in the research during the 7th Annual Military and Veteran Health Research Forum held in Vancouver in November 2016.

The Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research (CIMVHR) states on its website, “With close to 70,000 Regular Force members in the Canadian Armed Forces, 27,000 Reserve Force members, 54,000 military families and over 600,000 Veterans, we have a significant population with unique risks, exposures and experiences that demands new standards of protection, prevention and care for the ill and injured.”

They will fund the sports psychology study that will involve approximately 200 competitors and 30 family members.

Established by Prince Harry in 2014, the Invictus Games are the only international adaptive sporting event for wounded, ill and injured active duty and Veteran service members.

The Toronto edition of the Games will be the first time Canada has hosted the event. It will bring together 550 competitors from 17 nations competing in 12 sports.

The study, conducted by Dalhousie University and the CIMVHR, will survey 200 Canadian and international competitors and ask a series of questions about their experiences in preparing for the games, during competition, and the long-term impact of the Games.

Researchers will then look for common trends in their responses in an effort to improve both policy and program delivery for current and former military service members with illnesses and injuries.

Lead researcher Dr. Celina Shirazipour said the study will provide unparalleled opportunity to fill research gaps and allow for the exploration of sport participation and its effects on the health and well-being of military personnel and their families for the short and long term.

“We know sport has the potential to be beneficial, but we want to know what aspects of the Games positively impact athletes the most,” said Dr. Shirazipour. “In the end, the results will help us promote more enhanced program development for ill and injured service members and veterans, as well as their families.”

She noted there have been studies done in the past about the benefits of sports and healing but very little as to how it affects injured veterans and military personnel and their families in their recovery, in the short- and long-term.

“There have been very few researchers who have had the benefit of interviewing such a diverse number of service members and veterans from around the world, taking part in one sporting event,” she said.

Dr. Shirazipour and her supervisor, Dr. Alice Aiken, have already begun to tackle one portion of their study, which will survey more than 250 randomly selected members of the Canadian public to find out what impact the Games will have on them.

She said the goal of this portion of the study is to gauge public awareness both ahead of the Games and after they have wrapped up, in an effort to better understand public perceptions of injured currently serving military and veterans.                                                       

Dr. Shirazipour said preliminary results of the study will be announced at this year’s CIMVHR forum, which will be held from September 25 to 27, 2017 in Toronto in the days leading up to the Invictus Games Opening Ceremony at the Air Canada Centre.

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