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Exploring the psychological aspects of sport injury
Exploring the psychological aspects of sport injury

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4.1 Relaxation in practice

There are a wide range of relaxation techniques that can be used by injured sport and exercise participants. Four examples are given in Figure 6 below and you will have the opportunity to try one of these yourself in Activity 4.

Interactive Figure 6 Relaxation techniques in sport injury rehabilitation
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Activity 4 Relaxation: have a go!

Timing: Allow about 45 minutes

Select one of the relaxation techniques from Figure 6 and then watch the associated video and undertake the technique. Evaluate how effective you found the technique by answering the following questions:

  • How did the technique make you feel? Was it effective in making you feel relaxed?
  • How easy or difficult did you find it to undertake the task?
  • Do you think you would use this technique to help you relax? If so, in what circumstances would you use it?
  • Do you think it would be a useful technique for an injured athlete or exercise participant? Why?
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It is useful to try a technique in order to fully understand its effectiveness and potential application for those with a sport injury. You may find that some relaxation techniques are more effective for you than others.

As with all techniques, individuals will have a preference for particular relaxation techniques over others. The most appropriate relaxation technique will also depend on the situation. For example, if you only have a very short period of time to relax, a short breathing technique will likely be more appropriate than a full PMR routine. In comparison to the other techniques – which are cognitive in nature – PMR has a physical (or somatic) component which might make it particularly suitable for individuals who are experiencing muscle tension.

All of these techniques have received research support for use in the treatment of sport injury, but there has been some wider debate about the effectiveness of PMR. A systematic review (Pelka et al., 2016) concluded that PMR was ineffective in enhancing performance. It should be noted, however, that this review was specifically investigating the direct effect of PMR on measures of sports performance (e.g. tennis strokes, reaction time, muscle strength, aerobic performance), while the benefits of PMR in relation to sport injury are likely to be more indirect. For example, PMR has been shown to improve sleep which could indirectly reduce injury risk (e.g. improved recovery from training, reduced stress and anxiety) (McCloughan et al., 2016).