Pain and athletes: Contact sport participation and performance in pain

David Sheffield, Claire Thornton, M.V. Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Objectives
This study examined the effect of cold pressor pain on performance in high-contact athletes, low-contact athletes and non-athletes.

Design
A three-group between-subjects experimental design was used.

Method
Seventy-one participants completed a motor task and a cognitive task of different complexity (easy or hard) both in pain and not in pain. The motor task involved participants throwing a tennis ball at numbered targets in the correct order. In the cognitive task, participants were required to check off the numbers one to twenty-five in the correct order from a grid of randomly ordered numbers. Task difficulty was increased by adding dummy targets (motor task) or extra numbers (cognitive task).

Results
Cold pressor pain was rated as less intense by high-contact athletes during both tasks compared to low-contact athletes and non-athletes. High-contact athletes’ performance was not hampered by pain on the motor task, whereas it was in low-contact athletes and non-athletes. However, pain did not hamper performance for any group during the cognitive task. Low-contact and non-athletes did not differ from each other in their pain reports or the degree to which their performance was hampered by pain in either task.

Conclusions
This study provides evidence that adaptation to pain through participation in high-contact sports can enhance both pain tolerance generally and motor performance specifically under increases in pain. The mechanisms behind these differences warrant further exploration.
Original languageEnglish
Article number101700
Number of pages7
JournalPsychology of Sport and Exercise
Volume49
Early online date29 Mar 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2020

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Pain and athletes: Contact sport participation and performance in pain'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this