Mind Over Matter

July 27, 2018

Injured athletes could benefit from a treatment approach that builds in mindfulness, says a new study. Findings showed increased pain tolerance and awareness among injured athletes who practiced mindfulness medication once per week for two months.

“This study suggests that there is considerable scope for including some formal mindfulness components into the professional training of sports injury rehabilitation professionals. More specifically, regarding the significant mental nature of pain, mindfulness can become an essential part in the therapeutic toolkit of sport therapy,” the authors wrote in an article published in Frontiers in Psychology.

According to ScienceDaily, researchers at the University of Kent recruited 20 athletes to participate. All of the athletes had sustained severe injuries that kept them sidelined from participating in their sport for three to six months. Before their injuries, the athletes—14 male and 6 female—had trained with university teams and participated in official university championships. They were 21 to 36 years old and recruited for the study via referrals and word-of-mouth.

Throughout the study, all of the participants followed physiotherapy treatment that was specific to their injury. Within the intervention group, participants responded to three questionnaires about mindful attention awareness, mood states, and depression and anxiety. They also underwent a mindful check-in and a formal meditation time period consisting of mindful breathing, body scan meditation, and sitting meditation. At the end of each session, the participations completed the same questionnaires again and were able to provide another check-in and comments.

To evaluate the impact of the mindfulness initiatives, the cold pressor test was used with all athletes at the beginning of the study and again one week after the study’s completion. This pain assessment evaluator involves participants submerging one hand into a bucket of cold water for as long as they are able (though for a maximum time of eight minutes).  Pain is assessed by the length of time the hand remains in the bucket.

“The main aim of this study was to explore the usefulness of MBSR [Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction] in a sport injury rehabilitation context. Based on the results of this study, incorporating the MBSR programme into sport therapy helped injured athletes to increase their pain tolerance as well as mindfulness, and had a positive effect on their recovery from an injury,” the authors wrote.

One way that mindfulness could help with injuries is by drawing attention to what is happening. As a result, individuals who practice it may pay better attention to what is happening without inflicting self-criticism.

“However, regarding therapeutic duration, further research is needed to understand whether MBSR could support injured athletes during the recovery period,” the authors wrote.



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