Exposure to contact sports results in maintained performance during experimental pain

Claire Thornton, David Sheffield, Andrew Baird

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

During pain, motor performance tends to decline. However, athletes who engage in contact sports are able to maintain performance despite the inherent pain that accompanies participation. This may be the result of being challenged rather than threatened by pain; adaptive coping strategies; habituation to pain; or finding pain less bothersome. This study aimed to measure performance of a novel motor task both in pain and not in pain within experienced contact athletes (n = 40), novice contact athletes (n = 40), and noncontact athletes (n = 40). Challenge and threat perceptions were manipulated during the pain condition and measures of pain tolerance, perception, coping styles, and bothersomeness were taken. Results indicated that contact athletes, regardless of experience, were able to maintain their performance during painful stimulation. Noncontact athletes, conversely, performed significantly worse during pain stimulation. In addition, contact athletes tended to be more challenged and the noncontact athletes more threatened within the pain condition. Experienced contact athletes demonstrated higher levels of pain tolerance and direct coping, and reported lower levels of pain bothersomeness and intensity than the other groups. The results suggest that even relatively brief exposure to contact sports may be enough to help maintain performance in pain. Being in a challenged state appears to be an important factor during performance in pain. Moreover, pain tolerance, intensity, and bothersomeness may differentiate novice and experienced athletes. Perspective: Exposure to voluntary pain and challenge states are associated with adaptive responses to pain. Motor task performance may be maintained in individuals with more experience of sports-related pain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)68-75
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Pain
Volume22
Issue number1
Early online date26 Jun 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021

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