A new report by Alex E. Walsh of Boston University, published in the International Journal of Athletic Therapy and Training investigates the principle that the negative effects of stress on the recovery of injured athletes can be alleviated by relaxation.
Sport psychologists have been researching this area for almost three decades whereas sports medicine
clinicians have only recently recognized the importance of psychosocial factors in injury rehabilitation
Stress can typically be brought on by an athlete worrying about such things as whether they will make a complete recovery, will the injury recur and how well they will perform once back on the field of play.
Psychological stress usually leads to physical symptoms such as increased heart rate, muscle tension, shallow breathing and elevated blood pressure which can in turn lead to further stress and can distract the athlete from focusing fully during a rehabilitation session.
The author suggests athletics coaches and clinicians should consider introducing an effective relaxation technique that breaks this cycle and replaces it with a stimulus response pattern of calm, comfort and relaxation.
He advocates learning simple relaxation techniques such as repeating a word, phrase or sound for about 10 minutes twice a day which will clear the mind of negative thoughts and relax the body.
Although recognizing that applying this basic principle against the usual backdrop of noise and bustle found in the treatment room can be difficult, the author says it is possible with practice to make the relaxation response effective in an athletic training facility and enable the athlete to concentrate on maximizing the benefits of the rehabilitation session.