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This study explored patterns of change in stress variables (i.e., stressors, appraisals, emotions) encountered by wounded, injured, and sick military veterans in the build up to, during, and following an international sporting competition. The study also examined interactions between psychosocial variables and salivary biomarkers of stress and how these relate to veterans’ health, well-being, illness, and performance. 40 Invictus Games (IG) athletes and a control group of 20 military veteran athletes completed questionnaires at seven time points over a 12-week period. Furthermore, participants provided morning and evening saliva samples at four time points to measure cortisol and secretory immunoglobulin A. Multilevel growth curve analyses revealed significant changes in growth trajectories of stress-related variables. For example, team and culture stressors and anger and dejection emotions significantly increased in the build up to competition, whilst challenge appraisals and excitement and happiness emotions significantly decreased over the same time-frame. A number of the stress related variables also predicted performance, well-being, and mental health. Specifically, organizational stressors and threat appraisals were found to negatively relate to performance, well-being, and mental health. Furthermore, whilst challenge appraisals and problem focused coping positively related to veterans’ well-being, adopting emotion-focused and avoidance coping strategies negatively predicted well-being and mental health. Turning to emotions, experiencing anger, anxiety, and dejection negatively related to mental health, well-being and performance; whereas happiness and excitement displayed a positive relationship with these outcomes. The findings also highlighted that organizational stressor intensity was positively related to cortisol exposure at competition. To conclude, this study not only provides a novel, longitudinal, interdisciplinary insight into psychological and biological markers of the stress response as it relates to the performance, health, and well-being of military veterans, but also further contributes to theoretical understanding on the transactional nature of stress. Moreover, the findings significantly contribute to practice regarding how best to support this unique population in adaptively responding to and engaging with competitive sport.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1934
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalFrontiers in Psychology: Movement Science and Sport Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 22 Aug 2019


  • Competition
  • Cortisol
  • Emotion
  • Psychological stress
  • Rehabilitation
  • Sport

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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