Athletes and Biofeedback
Athletes face a host of unique challenges, which can impact their performance enormously. Whether they win or lose depends on how well they are able to manage the following stressors: emotions, injured tissue, heart rate and rhythm, brain and nerve function, nutrition, hormones, over training, repetitive injury, endurance, focus, coordination, flexibility and balance. Biofeedback allows the athlete to acquire skills to better balance their physical and mental performance. (World Sport of Science, 2011)
For many years now Olympic and professional athletes have utilized biofeedback as a means of positively adapting to and mastering all of these challenges, while gaining self-control and a significant competitive edge in sports and competition. Biofeedback research has been conducted for decades in sports psychology, showing positive effects of these interventions on sports performance and stress management.
Sports psychologists will find that biofeedback is cutting-edge technology that holds potential for improving concentration and attention, lowering anxiety and disruptive mental chatter and in assisting in the rehabilitation of effects from concussions and mild head injuries. (Hammond, 2007)
Biofeedback: Helping Athletes Win!
The Olympic Games in Beijing China in 2008 exemplified how biofeedback can help athletes reach their peak performance potential, break competition bests and bring home the gold. In Beijing, a team of biofeedback professionals worked on 358 Olympians, all of who were considered at baseline to be “second string.” The 32 medals they won astounded coaches, as well as the Ministers of the sport. (Mandel, TQA 2010)
In competition, mental attitudes account for up to 80% of success. “Anxiety of performance increases the probability of mistakes during the competition” (Peper, Schmid, 1998). Therefore, management of stress and anxiety are essential for optimal performance. The biofeedback system can help monitor physiological and psychological reactions, highlight how positive or negative thoughts are affecting those reactions and train the athlete for improved concentration. It can also assist them in identifying and eliminating disturbing thoughts and feelings, and reframing self-talk more positively.
Athletes become more attuned to their physical and psychological stressors and, through entrained relaxation, learn how to adapt to these challenges. Each and every movement an athlete makes must be precise and use the least, most efficient effort possible in the high performance arena. Relaxation is essential to this process.
Biofeedback can be a crucial part of the athlete’s education and peak performance training. Another crucial factor is quality sleep, which also facilitates the body’s ability to repair itself quickly and efficiently. By initiating a relaxation response, and entraining muscles and brainwaves, the device is able to help athletes feel well rested, recover more quickly and be more energized.
Sports Performance and Recovery – Athlete Cases
Biofeedback has been used at the Olympic level for over 30 years. Advancements continue to provide unique advantages for participants who utilize them. Biofeedback has several capabilities that embrace the mind-body emphasis, which is the primary goal of the devices. In particular, Sport Specific programs contain advanced graphics to help trigger the athlete’s mind-body interaction. The more state-of-the-art bio-electromagnetic technologies offer athletes many benefits beyond mind-body training.
Top athletes choose biofeedback because its technical specifications and comprehensive array of retraining programs far surpass other non-invasive options available. Biofeedback devices are registered with the FDA in the United States to reduce stress, manage pain and re-educate muscles. The integrative biofeedback now used with Olympic Athletes in China, replacing former technologies, offers a more accurate and powerful form of biofeedback.
There are many advantages to adding biofeedback therapy to an athlete’s existing training regime. The benefits include enhancing performance, improving mind-body focus, facilitating recovery from injury, reducing stress and anxiety and much more. Some of the improvements witnessed by trainers utilizing biofeedback are:
Increased mobility and flexibility
Increased energy and power
Improved sleep: athletes reported falling asleep easier and quicker and had deeper sleep
Faster recovery from injuries
Pain stabilized and decreased
Heart rate stabilized
Felt less stressed
Emotions more stable
Better oxygenation of the blood
Faster recovery from acute and chronic issues