Mindfulness helps injured athletes improve pain tolerance and awareness
A new study of injured athletes carried out by the University of Kent found they can benefit from using mindfulness as part of the sport rehabilitation process to improve their pain tolerance and awareness.
The research, carried out by Dr Warhel Asim Mohammed and Dr Athanasios Pappous (School of Sport and Exercise Sciences) and Dr Dinkar Sharma (School of Psychology) could have major implications in the treatment of sporting injuries at all levels.
Every year there are 29.7 million injuries among athletes in the UK. These have both psychological and physiological effects on athletes and for some it may mean the end of a career in sport.
To understand if mindfulness could play a part in the rehabilitation process of injuries, the researchers conducted tests on 20 athletes (14 male, six female), aged from 21-36 years who had severe injuries, preventing their participation in sport for more than three months.
Both groups followed their normal physiotherapy treatment but, in addition, the intervention group practised mindfulness meditation in one 90-min session per week for eight weeks.
A Cold Pressor Test (CPT) was used to assess pain tolerance. In contrast, the perception of pain was measured using a Visual Analogue Scale. Other measurements used were the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS), Depression Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS), and Profile of Mood States (POMS).
Results demonstrated an increase in pain tolerance for the intervention group and an increase in mindful awareness for injured athletes. Moreover, there was a promising change in positive mood for both groups. Regarding the Stress/Anxiety scores, findings showed a notable decrease across sessions.
The study used a common meditation technique, based on Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), as an intervention for utilisation during the recovery period of injured athletes – this is the first study using MBSR as an intervention for this purpose.
The aim of this research was to investigate the role of MBSR practise in reducing the perception of pain and anxiety/stress and increasing pain tolerance and mindfulness. Additionally, the aim was to increase positive mood and decrease negative mood in injured athletes.
Sport injuries are a considerable public health concern. The impact of the injured athlete extends beyond the individual. Although it may impact on their seasonal and potential career performance, it additionally impacts upon the clubs and organisations for whom they perform. Furthermore, it leads to a greater general burden on the health service.
Further research is required to assess whether increasing pain tolerance could help in the therapeutic process.
The paper, Effect of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) in Increasing Pain Tolerance and Improving the Mental Health of Injured Athletes has been published in Frontiers in Psychology.
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Notes to editors
Established in 1965, the University of Kent – the UK's European university – now has almost 20,000 students across campuses or study centres at Canterbury, Medway, Tonbridge, Brussels, Paris, Athens and Rome.
It has been ranked 22nd in the Guardian University Guide 2018 and in June 2017 was awarded a gold rating, the highest, in the UK Government's Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF).
In the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2015-16, it is in the top 10% of the world's leading universities for international outlook and 66th in its table of the most international universities in the world. The THE also ranked the University as 20th in its 'Table of Tables' 2016.
Kent is ranked 17th in the UK for research intensity (REF 2014). It has world-leading research in all subjects and 97% of its research is deemed by the REF to be of international quality.
In the National Student Survey 2016, Kent achieved the fourth highest score for overall student satisfaction, out of all publicly funded, multi-faculty universities. Along with the universities of East Anglia and Essex, Kent is a member of the Eastern Arc Research Consortium (http://www.kent.ac.uk/about/partnerships/eastern-arc.html).
The University is worth £0.7 billion to the economy of the south east and supports more than 7,800 jobs in the region. Student off-campus spend contributes £293.3m and 2,532 full-time-equivalent jobs to those totals.
Kent has received two Queen's Anniversary prizes for Higher and Further Education.