E Niswonger


Elizabeth Niswonger. Georgia College and State University, Milledgeville, GA.

BACKGROUND: In sports, athletes have higher pain tolerance and threshold levels compared to non-athletes. However, there is little research regarding how different types of sports are associated with pain tolerance and threshold in female athletes. The purpose of the study was to examine the levels of pain threshold and tolerance within a group of female competition and female performance athletes to determine if a difference exists. METHODS: 11 athletes (M: 23.1, SD: 7.1) were divided into competition (C) group (n = 5) and performance (P) group (n = 6). Resting hemodynamic measurements, anthropometric measurements, and body composition assessments via dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) were measured prior to the induction of experimental pain. Pain threshold and tolerance were induced by the cold pressor test (CPT) and three sets of electrical stimulation (Estim) tests for upper and lower limbs. A Visual Analog Scale (VAS), heart rate (HR), and blood pressure (only CPT) were recorded during the experimental pain to determine pain levels. RESULTS: There were no significant differences between groups in beginning measurements (p> 0.05) or in physiological responses to the CPT. The pain threshold for both groups occurred at the thirty-second (sec) time marker (p> 0.05). From the upper limb Estim assessment, there were no significant physiological differences between groups for pain threshold (C=70-mV: P=50-mV; p=0.247), pain tolerance level (C=102-mV: P=95-mV; p=0.429), or in VAS scores. In the lower limb assessment, a significant difference in HR was seen between groups at the 100-mV level (C=71±12.3bpm: P=88±6.1bpm; p=0.041), with no significant difference in the corresponding VAS score. Pain threshold was not significantly different (C=100-mV; P=80-mV; p=0.310) however the pain tolerance level was significantly different (C=90-mV; P=60-mV; p=0.032), again with no differences in VAS scores. CONCLUSION: From our sample, it seems that although the C athletes had higher pain thresholds and tolerance levels for both upper and lower limb assessments, the P group had higher HR measurements throughout both assessments. Further examination into whether performance athletes have altered responses to pain stimuli needs to be completed to understand the performance athlete’s psychological response to pain.

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