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Mind over Sports Injury: Mindfulness Exercises Could Prevent Injury


Effects
of a Mindfulness-Based Program on the Incidence of Injuries in Young Male
Soccer Players

Naderi A, Shaabani F,
Gharayagh Zandi H, Calmeiro L, Brewer BW. J Sport Exerc Psychol. 2020 Mar 9:1-11. doi:
10.1123/jsep.2019-0003 [Epub ahead of print]

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/32150722

Take-Home Message

A mindfulness training program
reduced the number of injuries, days out of play, and improved attention, perceived
stress, and anxiety levels among male soccer players.

Summary

While many injury prevention programs affect physical risk factors for injury (e.g., neuromuscular control), few programs address the psychological risk factors. Personality traits, history of stressors, and an athlete’s coping strategies may influence someone’s stress response and subsequent risk of injury. Mindfulness interventions improve executive function, awareness, and decrease stress and anxiety; but, their ability to prevent injury is unclear. Therefore, the authors conducted a randomized trial to determine if a 7-session mindfulness-acceptance-commitment approach (81 athletes) could decrease the number of acute sports injuries in soccer athletes (~17 years of age, 8 different clubs) compared to a 7-session educational program on the psychology of injury (79 athletes). They also assessed if the mindfulness intervention influenced psychological changes (anxiety, stress, attention) that can influence the rate of acute sports injuries. All mindfulness sessions were 45 minutes and performed in small groups (~15 participants per group). The mindfulness sessions started with shared feelings, followed by a presentation on a specific mindfulness topic. At the end of the sessions, the athlete was given a mindfulness exercise specific to that session’s topic. The athletes logged how long they practiced the technique daily (~30 minutes a day). The control group also met for 45 minutes once/week and was delivered content from a book on the psychology of sports injury. The coaches sent the authors data on the athlete’s athlete exposure. Two study staff members recorded any injury and interviewed the coach or athlete for additional details. The authors defined an injury as any physical complaint sustained during a competition or practice that was directly related to soccer, which resulted in 4 or more days of absence from practice throughout one season. They focused solely on acute injuries. The athletes completed several patient-reported outcome measures before the intervention and then monthly for 5 months: Comprehensive Inventory of Mindfulness Experiences, Toronto Mindfulness Scale, Sport Anxiety Scale-2, Kessler Psychological Distress Scale, D2 Attention Endurance Test. Coaches and athletes also completed a survey regarding how satisfied they were with the program. Overall, the mindfulness program reduced the number of injuries (3.67 vs. 6.12 per 1,000 athlete exposures), days lost to injury (~10 days vs. ~14 days), anxiety, and stress compared to the control group. Additionally, the mindfulness group reported greater attention and state mindfulness compared to the control group. Lastly, both coaches and athletes reported high satisfaction rates with the mindfulness program.

Viewpoints

The authors of the study demonstrated that mindfulness-based training might
be an effective strategy to reduce the incidence of acute sport injures in
soccer athletes in one season. The mindfulness intervention reduced the number
of injures, mean time lost to injury and reduced anxiety and stress levels as
well as improved mindfulness and attention during 1 season. The authors suggested
that mindfulness training may improve attentional processes (quicker reaction
time, more accurate movements) that could decrease the susceptibility to
injury. Additionally, athletes in the mindfulness group reported decreased
perceived anxiety and stress levels, which may also decrease the risk of acute
injury. Furthermore, mindfulness practice may reduce the influence of emotional
factors by helping an athlete focus more attention on the current training or competition.
It is also important to note that both coaches and athletes were satisfied with
the mindfulness program, which suggests that this strategy can gain buy-in and have
good compliance. Medical professionals should encourage and implement
mindfulness strategies to help prevent injuries.

Questions for Discussion

Do you practice any mindfulness exercise techniques?
Would you consider implementing mindfulness practice strategies into your
prevention program?

Written by: Jane McDevitt
Reviewed by: Jeffrey Driban

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