Contact Athletes Cope With Pain Better

PainRelief.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Contact athletes, regardless of experience level were able to maintain their performance of a novel motor task during pain. Non-contact athletes, conversely performed worse during pain.  

Contact athletes were more challenged in the pain condition compared to the no pain condition. Non-contact athletes were more threatened in the pain condition compared to the no pain condition.  

Experienced contact athletes had higher pain tolerance and direct coping (an adaptive coping style) than the other athletes. They also reported less pain bothersomeness and intensity. 

PainRelief.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: Relatively brief exposure to contact sports may be enough to be able to maintain performance during painful stimulation. Being challenged by pain is an important factor and results in adaptive behaviours. Contact athletes were more challenged and coped more positively with the pain (direct coping), which was associated with maintained or bettered performance. Pain responses such as tolerance and intensity ratings seem to differentiate athlete groups, in line with previous research.  

PainRelief.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: Future research should seek to examine the mechanisms through which challenge states and direct coping are developed. Furthermore, there is a need to explore how coaches can develop adaptive pain coping strategies in athletes to facilitate effective performance despite the experience of pain.

Understanding how contact athletes function in pain could be useful for other populations such as those suffering from post-surgical or injury-related pain. Strategies could be developed to help those suffering from clinical pain to be able to maintain performance on day to day tasks and feel more able to cope. This might expedite recovery processes and improve clinical outcomes.  

Citation:

Claire Thornton, David Sheffield, Andrew Baird,
Exposure to Contact Sports Results in Maintained Performance During Experimental Pain,
The Journal of Pain, 2020,

ISSN 1526-5900,

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpain.2020.03.008

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