• Exposure to contact sports results in maintained performance during experimental pain

      Thornton, C; Sheffield, D; Baird, A; Northumbria University; University of Derby (Elsevier, 2020-06-26)
      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 non-contact 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. Non-contact athletes, conversely, performed significantly worse during pain stimulation. In addition, contact athletes tended to be more challenged and the non-contact 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.PerspectiveExposure 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.
    • Pain and athletes: Contact sport participation and performance in pain

      Sheffield, David; Thornton, C; Jones, M.V.; University of Derby; Northumbria University; Manchester Metropolitan University (Elsevier BV, 2020-03-29)
      This study examined the effect of cold pressor pain on performance in high-contact athletes, low-contact athletes and non-athletes. A three-group between-subjects experimental design was used. 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). 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. 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.