Athletes from contact sports shown to have higher pain tolerance and ability to cope up with pain

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Athletes from contact sports shown to have higher pain tolerance and ability to cope up with pain

A recent study by Thornton C and colleagues have found that athletes who regularly participate in contact sports experience less pain bothersome, have higher pain coping ability, pain tolerance and ischemic pain tolerance over the season as compared to non-participating athletes.

Contact sports, as the name reflects, the sports in which the players have a range of physical contact with each other or with inanimate objects. Though, all the safety measures are taken to prevent injuries during contact sports; it is difficult to prevent injuries completely. Athletes engaged in contact sports are known to have higher pain tolerance than those who don't. It is not known if this is a result of individual differences at the outset or as a result of habituation over time. Therefore, to evaluate the matter, a study was conducted to compare pain tolerance in athletes engaged in contact sports and those who were disengaged from it.

In this study, a total of 102 athletes were selected from different contact sports (rugby, martial arts, and American football). Of 102, 47 were placed into participating category and 55 into non-participating. These athletes completed the measures of perceived pain intensity, pain bothersome, cold and ischemic pain tolerance and pain coping styles. The data were noted down at the starting point, in the middle (at four months) and at the end (at eight months) of their season.

Athletes participating in contact sports showed higher rates of ischemic pain tolerance at the start, middle and at the end of the season as compared to non-participating athletes. Moreover, the bothering pain (physically and psychologically) was found to be less prevalent among participating athletes. Participating athletes also showed higher levels of pain coping ability, higher tolerance to cold pain and catastrophized less about injury pain. On the other hand, non-participating athletes were less tolerant to pain stimuli by the end of the season. One of the factors, pain intensity, showed no change over the season for both groups. These effects, would possibly a result of catastrophizing.

However, having low pain tolerance should not prevent athletes from taking part in sports, as the pain becomes less bothersome with time. Further, coaches could also work with athletes to develop pain coping techniques.


Scandinavian Journal of Pain

Link to the source:

The original title of the article:

A longitudinal exploration of pain tolerance and participation in contact sports


Claire Thornton; David Sheffield and Andrew Baird

Athletes, sports, pain, tolerance
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