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Sports Are 80 Percent Mental

3 Posts tagged with the football tag


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As first seen on LiveScience.com
and Sports Are 80 Percent Mental



From the "athletes behaving badly" department (in the past month, anyway):
•    NHL bad boy (Sean Avery) was suspended for six games for a crude remark.
•    Six NFL players were suspended for allegedly violating the league's drug policy.
•    Another NFL player (Adam "Pacman" Jones) returned to his team's roster after being suspended, again, for an off-field altercation.
•    Oh, and NFL receiver (Plaxico Burress) accidentally shot himself in a nightclub with a gun he was not licensed to carry. 

Despite the 24/7 media coverage of each of these incidents, sports fans have become accustomed to and somewhat complacent with hearing about athletes and their deviant acts.
In fact, new statistics reveal that bad behavior is clearly evident among high school athletes, particularly in high-contact sports.

It starts young
Besides the highly publicized stories, there are thousands more across the nation involving amateur athletes taking risks both on and off the field. From performance-enhancing supplements to referee/official abuse to fights, guns and recorded crimes, the image of sports as a positive influence on athletes may need a second look.

Granted, in a population of any size there will be a few bad apples. However, these actions have become so prevalent that academic researchers have created a branch of study called "deviance in sports" attached to the sports sociology tree. 

They are asking questions and challenging some assumptions about cause and effect. Is there a connection between sports participation and deviance? Does the intense competition and battle on the field shape a player's off-the-field lifestyle? Since success in sports brings attention and prestige to athletes, does the risk of losing that status cause a need to take risks to maintain their "top dog" positions?

In their new book, "Deviance and Social Control in Sport," researchers Michael Atkinson and Kevin Young emphasize the confusing environment surrounding athletes. They describe two types of deviance: wanted and unwanted.

Owners, players and fans may know that certain behaviors are literally against the rules but are at the same time appreciated as a sign of doing whatever it takes to win.  Performance-enhancing drugs are not allowed in most sports, but athletes assume they will improve their performance, which helps their team win and keeps fans happy. Fights in hockey will be, according to the rule book, penalized, but this deviance is assumed to be wanted by fans and teammates as a sign of loyalty.

However, related bad behavior can quickly turn on a player to being socially unwanted. 

 

!http://drp2010.googlepages.com/seanavery.jpg|height=156|width=200|src=http://drp2010.googlepages.com/seanavery.jpg|border=0!Abuse of drugs that don't contribute to a win, (marijuana, cocaine, alcohol), will transform that same player into a villain with shock and outrage being reported in the media. In the Sean Avery example, a hockey player fighting to defend his teammates on the ice can then be suspended from the team and criticized by those same teammates for an off-color remark.

Real statistics
Most athletes who make it to the professional level have been involved in sports since youth. Sports sociologists and psychologists often look at the early development years of athletes to get a glimpse of patterns, social norms and influences that contribute to later behaviors.

In a recent American Sociological Review article, Derek Kreager, assistant professor of sociology at Penn State University, challenged the long-held belief that youth sports participation is exclusively beneficial to their moral character development. 

With the focus on teaching teamwork, fair play, and self esteem, sports are often cited as the antidote to delinquency. But Kreager notes that other studies have looked at the culture that surrounds high school and college athletes and identified patterns of clichés, privileges and attitudes of superiority. For some athletes, these patterns are used to justify deviant behavior.

In fact, his most recent research attempted to find a cause-and-effect link between deviant behavior and specific sports. Specifically, he asked if high-contact, physical sports like football and wrestling created athletes who were more prone to violent behavior off the field.

Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, more than 6,000 male students from across 120 schools were included. The data set included a wide collection of socioeconomic information, including school activities, risk behaviors and at-home influences. Kreager's study analyzed the effects of three team sports (football, basketball, and baseball) and two individual sports (wrestling and tennis) on the likelihood of violent off-field behavior, specifically, fighting.

To isolate the effect of each sport, the study included control groups of non-athletes and those that had a history of physical violence prior to playing sports. 

For team sports, football players were 40 percent more likely to be in a confrontation than non-athletes. In individual sports, wrestlers were in fights 45 percent more often, while tennis players were 35 percent less likely to be in an altercation. Basketball and baseball players showed no significant bias either way.

"Sports such as football, basketball, and baseball provide players with a certain status in society," Kreager said. "But football and wrestling are associated with violent behavior because both sports involve some physical domination of the opponent, which is rewarded by the fans, coaches and other players. Players are encouraged to be violent outside the sport because they are rewarded for being violent inside it."

832 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: football, sports_science, sport_psychology, youth_sports, pacman_jones, physics_of_hockey, plaxico_burress, sean_avery, sports_parents, sports_violence


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Maybe its the fear of turning 40.  Maybe its the feeling of unfinished business.  Maybe its the fire in the belly that has not quite extinguished.  For retired elite athletes, the itch is always there to make a return after experiencing "life after sport".  For some, it becomes too strong to ignore.  This year has seen the return of at least three champions, Dara Torres, Lance Armstrong and Brett Favre.  As they explain their individual reasons for coming back, some similarities emerge that have more to do with psychological needs than practical needs.  In a recent Miami Herald article , Torres explained her comeback to competitive swimming at age 41, "For me, it's not like I sat around and watched swimming on TV and thought, `Oh, I wish I was still competing'.  It was more gradual. But all of a sudden, something goes off inside you and you start seriously thinking about a comeback.  You'd think the competitive fire would die down with maturity, but I've actually gotten worse.  I wasn't satisfied with silver medals. I hate to lose now more than I did in my 20s. I'm still trying to figure out why.''

 

Drawing inspiration from Torres, Lance Armstrong has decided to make a comeback at age 37 with a declared goal to win his eighth Tour de France.  In a recent Vanity Fair article , he described his rationale, “Look at the Olympics. You have a swimmer like Dara Torres. Even in the 50-meter event http://community.active.com/blogs/sportsare80percentmental/2008/09/26/retirement-rebound-the-return-of-torres-favre-and-armstrong/freestyle, the 41-year-old mother proved you can do it. The woman who won the marathon http://community.active.com/blogs/sportsare80percentmental/2008/09/26/retirement-rebound-the-return-of-torres-favre-and-armstrong/Constantina Tomescu-Dita, of Romania was 38. Older athletes are performing very well. Ask serious sports physiologists and they’ll tell you age is a wives’ tale. Athletes at 30, 35 mentally get tired. They’ve done their sport for 20, 25 years and they’re like, I’ve had enough. But there’s no evidence to support that when you’re 38 you’re any slower than when you were 32."

 

Is it the 40 factor?  Brett Favre, who turns 39 in October, made his well-publicized return to the NFL last month wanting to return so badly that he accepted a trade to the New York Jets so that he could play.  His public and emotional decision to retire in March, only to begin hinting at a comeback in early summer showed the internal struggle he had with stepping away from sports.  You could hear the indecision in his retirement press conference, "I've given everything I possibly can give to this organization, to the game of football, and I don't think I've got anything left to give, and that's it.", Favre said. "I know I can play, but I don't think I want to. And that's really what it comes down to. Fishing for different answers and what ifs and will he come back and things like that, what matters is it's been a great career for me, and it's over. As hard as that is for me to say, it's over. There's only one way for me to play the game, and that's 100 percent. Mike and I had that conversation the other night, and I will wonder if I made the wrong decision. I'm sure on Sundays, I will say I could be doing that, I should be doing that. I'm not going to sit here like other players maybe have said in the past that I won't miss it, because I will. But I just don't think I can give anything else, aside from the three hours on Sundays, and in football you can't do that. It's a total commitment, and up to this point I have been totally committed."  Some observers point to the end of the Packers' 2007-2008 season with a heart-wrenching Favre interception in overtime that sent the Giants to the Super Bowl instead of Green Bay.  Being that close to the pinnacle of his sport must have been confidence that his skills had not diminished and once the fatigue of the past season had passed (by about June), that he was not ready to just ride the tractor in Mississippi for the next 40 years.

 

So, what do the sport psychologists make of these second thoughts?  These three athletes are world famous, but what about the hundreds of professional athletes that have had to make the same decision without all of the front page stories and fanfare?  Why does Chris Chelios, all-star and future Hall of Famer in the NHL, continue to avoid the retirement decision at age 45?  Coaches aren't immune either.  Bobby Bowden of Florida State and Joe Paterno of Penn State have refused to retire to the point of becoming an awkward story for their schools and fans. ''After all the adulation and excitement wear off and elite athletes come face to face with retirement and a more mundane life, they suffer a sense of loss, almost like a death,'' said sport psychologist John F. Murray .  "If you're Lance Armstrong, you realize that what you are is a cyclist, that is your identity, and if you feel you have one or two more titles in you, why let it go? Why not tackle unresolved challenges? Competing at that level provides a high that is hard to match. How can you not be addicted to that?''

 

Beyond the professional ranks, thousands of college and Olympic athletes are left with the realization that they face similar decisions of when to "give up the dream" and move into the more practical world of finishing their education and finding a job.  Their emotional attachment to their sport has developed over years of building an identity linked to their success on the field.  Despite the statistics showing the "funnel effect" of the diminishing number of athletes getting to the "next level", younger athletes continue to believe they are the ones that will make it to the top.  There is also the more emotional issue of unwillingly leaving a sport because of injury or simply not making the team due to diminished skills.  Dr. Murray adds, "When your whole life has been geared toward athletic excellence, the prospects of retirement can be dreadful! This is commonplace at collegiate level where 99 per cent of the athletes do not go on to play their sport professionally. Counseling is a way to prepare athletes for the inevitable loss that occurs after the glory is over and only memories remain. As with any loss, people need effective ways to cope. Going at it all on your own might work for some, but I’ll submit that the vast majority of athletes benefit from early discussion and planning for retirement. There is definitely life after sport."

 

Some colleges and universities, as well as some professional teams, have started to offer formal "retirement planning" for athletes as their formal sport careers wind down.  Life After Sports , a counseling firm started by Adrian McBride, a former college and NFL player, provides services to retiring college athletes to help them emotionally and practically adjust to a post-sports life.  The University of North Carolina has set-up the Center for the Study of Retired Athletes to offer a home for academic research into these issues.

 

Additional academic research is also coming out on athlete retirement including two articles this year (see citations below) from the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology.  First, Katie Warriner and David Lavallee of the University of Wales interviewed former elite gymnasts regarding their retirement at a relatively young age from competitive sport.  They found the loss of identity to be the biggest adjustment.   Second, Patricia Lally and Gretchen Kerr looked at how parents cope with their children's "retirement" from sport, as they also go through withdrawl symptoms when the "end of the dream" finally comes and the lifelong ambition for their child's athletic success is over.

 

Who's next up for a retirement rebound?  Just as Lance got inspiration from Torres and maybe Favre, the trend may continue.  The Bulls could use Jordan or Pippen and Roger Clemens is never far away from a phone.  Stay tuned!

 

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<span style="font-size: 130%;" title="ctx_ver=Z39.88-2004&amp;rft_val_fmt=info%3Aofi%2Ffmt%3Akev%3Amtx%3Ajournal&amp;rft.jtitle=JournalofAppliedSportPsychology&amp;rft.id=info:DOI/10.1080%2F10413200801998564&amp;rft.atitle=TheRetirementExperiencesofEliteFemaleGymnasts%3ASelfIdentityandthePhysicalSelf&amp;rft.date=2008&amp;rft.volume=20&amp;rft.issue=3&amp;rft.spage=301&amp;rft.epage=317&amp;rft.artnum=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.informaworld.com%2Fopenurl%3Fgenre%3Darticle%26doi%3D10.1080%2F10413200801998564%26magic%3Dcrossref%7C%7CD404A21C5BB053405B1A640AFFD44AE3&amp;rft.au=KatieWarriner&amp;rft.au=DavidLavallee&amp;bpr3.included=1&amp;bpr3.tags=Psychology">Katie Warriner, David Lavallee (2008). The Retirement Experiences of Elite Female Gymnasts: Self Identity and the Physical Self Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 20 (3), 301-317 DOI: 10.1080/10413200801998564

<span style="font-size: 130%;" title="ctx_ver=Z39.88-2004&amp;rft_val_fmt=info%3Aofi%2Ffmt%3Akev%3Amtx%3Ajournal&amp;rft.jtitle=JournalofAppliedSportPsychology&amp;rft.id=info:DOI/10.1080%2F10413200701788172&amp;rft.atitle=TheEffectsofAthleteRetirementonParents&amp;rft.date=2008&amp;rft.volume=20&amp;rft.issue=1&amp;rft.spage=42&amp;rft.epage=56&amp;rft.artnum=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.informaworld.com%2Fopenurl%3Fgenre%3Darticle%26doi%3D10.1080%2F10413200701788172%26magic%3Dcrossref%7C%7CD404A21C5BB053405B1A640AFFD44AE3&amp;rft.au=PatriciaLally&amp;rft.au=GretchenKerr&amp;bpr3.included=1&amp;bpr3.tags=Psychology">Patricia Lally, Gretchen Kerr (2008). The Effects of Athlete Retirement on Parents Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 20 (1), 42-56 DOI: 10.1080/10413200701788172 </span>

703 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: olympics, football, cycling, swimming, tour-de-france, retirement, lance_armstrong, dara_torres, sport_psychology, brett_favre

!http://bp2.blogger.com/_3b3RMRFwqU0/SJPuI716v-I/AAAAAAAAAYs/G_VFex594Dk/s320-R/hockeyconcussion.jpg|style=border: 0pt none ;|src=http://bp2.blogger.com/_3b3RMRFwqU0/SJPuI716v-I/AAAAAAAAAYs/G_VFex594Dk/s320-R/hockeyconcussion.jpg!As the puck was cleared to the other end of the ice, my 9-year old son's hockey teammates raced after it.  Then, I saw him.  He was lying motionless and face down at the blue line.  He had slid headfirst into the boards to make a play. By the time our coach made it over to him, he had started to move.  After a few minutes, they both skated to the bench where I saw the two talking.  Coach looked up at me in the stands with a grim look and motioned for me to come down.  The next four hours were my introduction to sports concussions.




!http://bp1.blogger.com/_3b3RMRFwqU0/SJPuvHHw3uI/AAAAAAAAAY8/9sLtbEgDty0/s320-R/SportsInjuriesKidsStats.gif|style=border: 0pt none ;|src=http://bp1.blogger.com/_3b3RMRFwqU0/SJPuvHHw3uI/AAAAAAAAAY8/9sLtbEgDty0/s320-R/SportsInjuriesKidsStats.gif!A concussion, clinically known as a Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (MTBI), is one of the most common yet least understood sports injuries.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are as many as 300,000 sports and recreation-related concussions each year in the U.S., yet the diagnosis, immediate treatment and long-term effects are still a mystery to most coaches, parents and even some clinicians.  The injury can be deceiving as there is rarely any obvious signs of trauma.  If the head is not bleeding and the player either does not lose consciouness or regains it after a brief lapse, the potential damage is hidden and the usual "tough guy" mentality is to "shake it off" and get back in the game.




[Leigh Steinberg | http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leigh_Steinberg], agent and representative to some of the top professional athletes in the world (including NFL QBs Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Leinart), is tired of this ignorance and attitude.  "My clients, from the day they played Pop Warner football, are taught to believe ignoring pain, playing with pain and being part of the playing unit was the most important value," Steinberg said, "I was terrified at the understanding of how tender and narrow that bond was between cognition and consciousness and dementia and confusion".  Which is why he was the keynote speaker at last week's "New Developments in Sports-Related Concussions" conference hosted by the University of Pittsburgh Medical College Sport Medicine Department in Pittsburgh.  Leading researchers gathered to discuss the latest research on sports-related concussions, their diagnosis and treatment.  "There's been huge advancement in this area," said Dr. Micky Collins, the assistant director for the UPMC Sports Medicine Program. "We've learned more in the past five years than the previous 50 combined."




 

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So, what is a concussion?  The CDC defines a concussion as "a complex pathophysiologic process affecting the brain, induced by traumatic biomechanical forces secondary to direct or indirect forces to the head."  Being a "mild" form of traumatic brain injury, it is generally believed that there is no actual structural damage to the brain from a concussion, but more a disruption in the biochemistry and electrical processes between neurons.  The brain is surrounded by cerebrospinal fluid, which is supposed to provide some protection from minor blows to the head.  However, a harder hit can cause rotational forces that affect a wide area of the brain, but most importantly the mid-brain and the reticular activating system which may explain the loss of consciousness in some cases.




In my son's case, he regained consciousness on the ice, but was in a very confused and dazed state for several hours.  He could not tell us his name, his teammates names, or even his brothers' names.  His expression was blank and he kept asking the same questions, "why are we here?" and "what happened"?   The local hospital performed a CT scan to look for any bleeding or skull fracture.  Seeing none, the diagnosis was an MTBI and that he would recover over time.  After four hours, his memory and personality did slowly return.  For some athletes, the concussion symptoms take longer to disappear in what is known as post-concussion syndrome.  It is not known whether this is from some hidden structural damage or more permanent disruption to neuronal activity.  Repeated concussions over time can lead to a condition known as dementia pugilistica , with long-term impairments to speech, memory and mental processing.




After the initial concussion, returning to the field before symptoms clear raises the risk of second impact syndrome, which can cause more serious, long-term effects.  As part of their "Heads Up" concussion awareness campaign, the CDC offers this video story of Brandon Schultz , a high school football player, who was not properly diagnosed after an initial concussion and suffered a second hit the following week, which permanently changed his life.  Without some clinical help, the player, parents and coach can only rely on the lack of obvious symptoms before declaring a concussion "healed".  However, making this "return to play" decision is now getting some help from some new post-concussion tests.  The first is a neurological skills test called ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion and Cognitive Testing) created by the same researchers at UPMC.  It is an online test given to athletes after a concussion to measure their performance in attention span, working memory, sustained and selective attention time, response variability, problem solving and reaction time.  Comparing a "concussed" athlete's performance on the test with a baseline measurement will help the physician decide if the brain has healed sufficiently.




However, Dr. Collins and his team wanted to add physiological data to the psychological testing to see if there was a match between brain activity, skill testing and reported symptoms after a concussion.  In a study released last year in the journal Neurosugery, they performed functional MRI (fMRI) brain imaging studies on 28 concussed high-school athletes while they performed certain working memory tasks to see if there was a significant link between performance on the tests and changes in brain activation.  They were tested about one week after injury and again after the normal clinical recovery period.“In our study, using fMRI, we demonstrate that the functioning of a network of brain regions is significantly associated with both the severity of concussion symptoms and time to recover,” said Jamie Pardini, Ph.D., a neuropsychologist on the clinical and research staff of the UPMC concussion program and co-author of the study.  “We identified networks of brain regions where changes in functional activation were associated with performance on computerized neurocognitive testing and certain post-concussion symptoms,” Dr. Pardini added. "Also, our study confirms previous research suggesting that there are neurophysiological abnormalities that can be measured even after a seemingly mild concussion.” 




Putting better assessment tools in the hands of athletic trainers and coaches will provide evidence-based coaching decisions that are best for the athlete's health.  Better decisions will also ease the minds of parents knowing their child has fully recovered from their "invisible" injury.

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<span class="Z3988" title="ctx_ver=Z39.88-2004&amp;rft_val_fmt=info%3Aofi%2Ffmt%3Akev%3Amtx%3Ajournal&amp;rft.aulast=Lovell&amp;rft.aufirst=Mark&amp;rft.aumiddle=R&amp;rft.au=Mark+ Lovell&amp;rft.au=JamieEPardini&amp;rft.au=Joel+Welling&amp;rft.au=MichaelWCollins&amp;rft.au=JenniferBakal&amp;rft.au=NicoleLazar&amp;rft.au=RebeccaRoush&amp;rft.au=WilliamFEddy&amp;rft.au=JamesTBecker&amp;rft.title=Neurosurgery&amp;rft.atitle=FUNCTIONALBRAINABNORMALITIESARERELATEDTOCLINICALRECOVERYANDTIMETORETURN-TO-PLAYINATHLETES&amp;rft.date=2007&amp;rft.volume=61&amp;rft.issue=2&amp;rft.spage=352&amp;rft.epage=360&amp;rft.genre=article&amp;rft.id=info:DOI/10.1227%2F01.NEU.0000279985.94168.7F">Lovell, M.R., Pardini, J.E., Welling, J., Collins, M.W., Bakal, J., Lazar, N., Roush, R., Eddy, W.F., Becker, J.T. (2007). FUNCTIONAL BRAIN ABNORMALITIES ARE RELATED TO CLINICAL RECOVERY AND TIME TO RETURN-TO-PLAY IN ATHLETES. Neurosurgery, 61(2), 352-360. DOI: 10.1227/01.NEU.0000279985.94168.7F </font>

720 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: football, soccer, concussion, sport_science, evidence_based_coaching, youth_sports, mtbi, head_injury


Dan Peterson

Dan Peterson

Member since: Oct 1, 2007

A Look Inside the Mind of the Athlete - You can find a mix of sport science, cognitive science, coaching and performance stories here as I focus on the "thinking" side of sports. My "home" is at http://blog.80percentmental.com. Thanks for stopping by!

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