Category Archives: Caroline Heaney

Raising the profile of The OU Sport & Fitness Team – Please RT!

By Caroline Heaney & Helen Owton


At the FELS Learning and Teaching conference in October 2015, Caroline Heaney and Helen Owton gave a presentation on “Using social media to raise your profile”. The aim of the presentation was to share the Open University (OU) Sport and Fitness Team’s experience of using social media and consider whether this had worked in raising the profile of the qualification area. This article provides a summary of the key metrics discussed in the presentation.

IDidntKnowSport and fitness qualifications have been available at the OU since 2008, yet anecdotally knowledge of the availability of these did not appear widespread. Using social media was identified as a low-budget strategy for raising the profile of the qualification. The social media strategy adopted by the Sport and Fitness team primarily involves the use of three media – Twitter, team blog and The Conversation.

Twitter

TwitterThe OU Sport and Fitness Twitter account was launched in October 2012 and has created 1,316 tweets collecting 640 followers to date which consists of students, Associate Lecturers, Open University accounts and others. This is mainly used to share relevant articles, engage with students and direct traffic to the blog. The @OU_Sport Twitter account currently has a ‘Klout score’ (measure of online impact) of 45, which is slightly above the average of 40.

Blog

BlogThe OU Sport and Fitness team blog was started in February 2014. It was initially only active during major sporting events (e.g. Winter Olympics/Paralympics, Commonwealth Games), but has been active all year round since May 2015. To date, there have been 85 posts (mean: 5 posts/month) written by all 8 members of the academic team team. Engagement from the entire team is key to the success of the blog. The articles posted on the blog are also sometimes posted in other locations (e.g. OpenLearn, The Conversation), and are publicised through Twitter and the Faculty Facebook page.  Data collected since May 2015 shows that the blog receives an average of 1,173 page views per month (range 707-1,819), with a high percentage of new visitors (mean = 85%). The blog is predominantly viewed by UK audiences, but does have a worldwide audience.

The Conversation

ConversationThe Conversation is “a collaboration between editors and academics to provide informed news analysis and commentary that’s free to read and republish”. It therefore provides a platform for academics to disseminate academic knowledge in an accessible format. The Sport and Fitness team have published 21 articles in The Conversation to date. The Conversation has a wide reach and at 17th September 2015 articles written by the team had received 63,354 views, which equates to a mean of 3,017 views per article (20 articles) and a range of 640-17,239 views per article.

Is it worth it?

The team believe that engaging with social media has been highly effective in raising the external profile of Sport and Fitness at The Open University. Additionally, the team have derived further benefits through engaging with social medial such as being able to communicate with students, developing a sport and fitness community, and disseminating research findings more widely.

Thank you to everyone who has followed, supported and re-tweeted us.

 

Twitter https://twitter.com/OU_Sport

Blog http://www.open.ac.uk/blogs/OU-Sport

The Conversation https://theconversation.com/uk

 

 

Recovery at the Rugby World Cup

By Caroline Heaney

Image courtesy of nenetus at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of nenetus at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Recovery has reportedly become a ‘hot topic’ at the 2015 Rugby World Cup. Competing in a major tournament such as the Rugby World Cup can take its toll on the body. Rugby is a physically demanding sport that fatigues the body, so it’s important for players to be able to recover effectively and bounce back ready for the next match. Teams that reach the final of the Rugby World Cup will have played seven matches and that can be tough for the body to cope with, even amongst elite athletes. Although both teams in the final will have played the same number of games, they may not have had the same experience. One team, for example, will have an extra day of rest since the two semi-finals are played on consecutive days. Additionally, one team may have a more gruelling semi-final than the other which could give their opposition an advantage. How well they recover from that gruelling match could make all the difference to the result. A lack of adequate recovery was reported to be an influencing factor in Japan’s defeat at the hands of Scotland after such a spectacular opening match against South Africa. Consequently sports performers often employ recovery strategies to speed up and maximise their recovery between matches. In this article we will review three commonly used strategies: cryotherapy, compression clothing and massage.

Cryotherapy

Cryotherapy can be defined as the lowering of tissue temperature in order to achieve a therapeutic objective (in this case to enhance recovery). There are various modes of cryotherapy, but ice baths were traditionally the most common mode used by athletes, however increasingly whole body cryotherapy is being used. Whole body cryotherapy (WBC) is where athletes are exposed to very low temperature rooms or chambers. Cryotherapy is openly used by elite rugby players. The Wales team, for example, were using cryotherapy in preparation for last World Cup in 2011 and reportedly stepped into a cryotherapy chamber soon after their victory over England on 26th September.

Cryotherapy is thought to reduce some of the negative symptoms associated with intensive exercise such as muscle soreness and inflammation, and increase waste transportation, but what evidence is there to support this? It would appear not a huge amount. A recent review found only limited evidence to support WBC as a recovery tool and concluded that it may make no difference to muscle soreness or even make the pain worse. Interestingly, when questioned on this a spokesperson from Welsh Rugby stated that despite the lack of evidence they continue to use it because they “think it works”. This indicates the importance of belief in a treatment and the potential for the placebo effect to influence recovery when using cryotherapy.

Compression clothing

Compression garments are the items of tight clothing worn by athletes that have highly elastic properties which provide compression. These garments have become commonplace in rugby, but what is the theory behind them and why are they thought to aid recovery? It is logical to assume that compression is beneficial to recovery due to some of its other uses e.g. in the treatment of sports injuries or the use of flight socks to avoid developing deep vein thrombosis. Compression garments are suggested to enhance recovery by reducing the swelling and inflammation that occurs in response to intensive exercise. The theory is that the compression creates an external pressure gradient thus minimising the space available for swelling, but what does the research evidence show?

In their meta-analysis of 12 compression garment studies Hill et al. (2014) concluded that there is evidence that compression garments are moderately effective in enhancing recovery from exercise induced muscle damage. So it would seem that there is some value to using compression garments to aid recovery.

Massage

Massage is commonly used by rugby players to enhance their recovery between matches, for example, the England rugby team use massage as an integral part of their recovery and match preparation. Whilst massage is a well established recovery strategy, there is a surprising lack of scientific evidence to support its use. Brummitt (2008) in his review of the literature concluded that the research has failed to show that massage has a significant impact on delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) or other measures of recovery. More recently, after reviewing the literature, Nelson (2013) concluded that massage has a promising role to play in reducing DOMS, but urged caution due to the variability in study methodology. This identifies one of the key issues that has stunted massage research – individual differences. Each massage therapist develops their own individual massage style, making comparisons between therapists problematic. Additionally, factors such as the depth of pressure applied, muscle groups involved, ambient temperature, and time of day may all affect the impact of a massage. Consequently, it appears that what is lacking from the body of research evidence is guidance on what techniques, timings and dosages are optimal for recovery.

Conclusion

It is likely that players in the Rugby World Cup will be engaging in a wide variety of recovery strategies during the tournament, including, but not limited those outlined in this article. While the scientific evidence to support these strategies is still relatively limited, they are widely adopted by players and players appear to believe that they are effective. This is perhaps the most important factor of all – if an athlete believes that a strategy will help them recover, they will feel more confident going into their next game and that can only be a good thing.

 

The science behind recovery strategies in sport will be covered in a new OU Sport and Fitness level 3 module coming soon.

For more Rugby World Cup related articles, visit the OpenLearn Rugby World Cup Hub.

Preparing for Penalty Shootout Pressure at the Women’s World Cup

By Caroline Heaney

With the Women’s Football World Cup now into the knockout stages football fans will be preparing themselves for the prospect of a penalty shoot-out or two. Penalty shoot-outs are rarely missing from a major tournament and in fact the last Women’s World Cup was won by Japan on penalties.

England fans have a love-hate relationship with the penalty shoot-out. The excitement of a penalty shoot-out is unquestionable, but England teams are not renowned for their success in penalty shoot-outs. The men’s team have had several exits from major tournaments at the hands of a penalty shoot-out (e.g. 2006 World Cup, Euro 2012) and the women’s team exited the 2011 World Cup after losing to France on penalties in the quarter final stages. So what is it about the penalty shoot-out that makes it so intense?

The penalty shoot-out in a major tournament is probably one the most highly pressured situations in football; the stakes are high and the margins for error are small. Additionally, the personal accountability of individual players is probably higher than in any other situation in football, where normally responsibility is collectively shared. No-one wants to be the player responsible for their team exiting a major tournament, and history shows that unsuccessful penalty takers are often ‘scapegoated’ and ostracised by their national media. Interestingly it appears to be the penalty takers rather than the goal-keepers who tend to fall victim to this negative media attention, perhaps due to the expectations of a penalty shoot-out: penalty takers are expected to score and goal-keepers are expected not to stop them. Obviously when a goal-keeper makes a winning save they become a hero in the eyes of the media, but rarely are they subjected to the same media condemnation as a player who misses a penalty when they fail to save a penalty.

As a result of this teams often focus a significant amount of effort on preparing for the possibility of a penalty shoot-out, and the England women’s team have been reported to be doing just that. Psychology is certainly a significant factor in the penalty shoot-out. As a sport psychologist I like to watch a player prepare to take a penalty and predict whether they will be successful – there are certain psychological cues that are indicative of the outcome. Researchers have investigated these and have identified various factors that can influence the success of the penalty shoot-out. Some of these are explored in our penalty shoot-out game:

Penalty Shootout Game

Click here to play our penalty shoot-out game

As with most tasks, confidence is key. A player who is confident and believes that they will score is more likely to do so. There is no room for doubt in a penalty shoot-out. Confidence can be seen through visual cues such as eye contact. A player who lacks confidence may avoid making eye contact with the goal keeper. Good goal keepers recognise these signals and will draw strength from an opponent who won’t make eye contact. Additionally, a successful penalty taker will normally take their time and not rush. Rushing can be seen as a sign of panic, whereas someone who waits is giving themselves time to compose themselves before executing the skill, perhaps utilising psychological techniques like imagery and positive self-talk before taking the penalty kick. A player may use imagery to rehearse taking a successful penalty in their head before taking it and may use positive self-talk to enhance their confidence and focus.

Experience is obviously an important factor for penalty takers. Players who have previously successfully taken penalties and won penalty shoot-outs are more likely to be confident in their ability to take a successful penalty. The reverse of that however is that those who have had bad experiences are less likely to be confident, which goes some way to explaining the serial penalty shoot-out defeats seen in teams such as the England and Holland men’s teams – the culture of expecting to lose a penalty shoot-out perpetuates. Research by Jordet revealed  that success rates in penalty shoot-outs are considerably higher for teams who have won their last two penalty shoot-outs compared to those who have lost their last two shoot-outs (89% versus 57%), even if the team membership is changed. Interestingly ‘higher status’ players, whilst likely having more experience to draw on, are sometimes less successful in penalty shoot-out situations; perhaps because the pressure of expectation is far greater for them than for players of lower status.

This shows that the successful penalty taker is one who is highly confident and copes well with pressure. Next time you watch a penalty shoot-out, watch the players prepare and see if you can predict whether or not they will be successful.

 

Do sportspeople have an addictive personality?

By Caroline Heaney

The big story of the men’s marathon at the Commonwealth Games wasn’t that of the winner, Michael Shelley, but that of 10th place finisher Steve Way whose turnaround from an overweight, 20-a day-smoker to an international athlete sparked media interest. In a TV interview Steve’s wife commented that he had an ‘addictive personality’ which instead of channelling into smoking he now channels into running. It is certainly true that the time and commitment that top level athletes dedicate to their sport is huge, but is it really an addiction?

What is exercise addiction?
Addiction to exercise is a recognised phenomenon which can be defined as a psychological and/or physiological dependence on regular exercise that is characterised by withdrawal symptoms (e.g. anxiety, muscle twitching, irritability) when the individual is unable to exercise. Speak to any athlete who trains regularly and I bet they will confess to experiencing withdrawal-type symptoms when they are unable to train (e.g. due to an injury), so perhaps sportspeople are addicted to exercise. The term ‘addiction’ has negative connotations, but is it really a bad thing for an athlete to feel so committed to their sport that they miss it when they can’t participate? Surely to excel in sport you need to demonstrate that level of attachment and committment. This leads to the question of whether exercise addiction is a good thing or a bad thing.

Positive and negative addiction
To acknowledge the possibility that an exercise addiction can be a good thing researchers distinguish between positive and negative exercise addiction. The key difference between these two types of additiction is control. In a negative exercise addiction the exercise controls the individual, whereas with a positive exercise addiction the individual controls the exercise. Negative exercise addiction is often associated with other conditions such as eating disorders and is therefore thought of as an unhealthy addiction. In contrast positive exercise addiction is effectively a healthy addiction. Given the negative connatations attached to the term addiction, some believe that a positive exercise addiction should be thought of as a committment rather than an addiction.

Conclusion
Top level athletes certainly appear to demonstate qualities that are indicative of exercise addiction, but this for the most part appears to be a healthy addiction. There are obviously exceptions to this, for example where an athlete has an eating disorder, but generally it can be concluded that there is a strong argument to suggest that top level athletes have a positive addiction to exercise – one that is both healthy and necessary to be successful.

Welcome

Welcome to our 2014 Commonwealth Games blog. As Glasgow prepares itself for tomorrow night’s opening ceremony and the sporting extravaganza that will follow, we will be providing articles and commentary from an academic perspective throughout the games.

You can keep up to date on any new posts by following us on Twitter.

What is the Commonwealth Games?
The Commonwealth Games is a multi-sport competition for Commonwealth countries (71 will be competing this year) held every 4 years. Seventeen sports will be played over the 11 days of the 2014 Commonwealth Games. These include traditional Olympic sports such as athletics, boxing, gymnastics and swimming, as well as sports that aren’t in the Olympics such as netball and lawn bowls. Look out for an article later this week by Jess Pinchbeck examining stereotypical perceptions of netball ahead of the start of the netball competition on Thursday.

To find out more about the Commonwealth Games (e.g. schedule, sports) visit the official Glasgow Commonwealth Games website.

Penalty Shoot-out Pressure

By Caroline Heaney

England’s early exit from the World Cup may be hugely disappointing, but it does have one positive outcome – English fans will be spared from the potential pain of the dreaded penalty shoot-out! The England Football team do not have a great history when it comes to penalty shoot-outs in major tournaments, for example:

  • 1990 World Cup Semi-final – England lost to Germany 
  • Euro 1996 Semi-final – England lost to Germany
  • 1998 World Cup – England lost to Argentina
  • Euro 2004 Quarter-final – England lost to Portugal
  • 2006 World Cup Quarter-final – England lost to Portugal
  • Euro 2012 – England lost to Italy

England are not the only nation with a poor reputation in penalty shoot-outs. Both Holland and Italy, for example, have suffered multiple tournament exits to penalty shoot-outs. Holland in fact exited three consecutive European championships to the feared penalty shoot-out (Euro 1992, Euro 1996 and Euro 2000)!

The penalty shoot-out in a major tournament is probably one the most highly pressured situations in football; the stakes are high and the margins for error are small. Additionally, the personal accountability of individual players is probably higher than in any other situation in football, where normally responsibility is collectively shared. No-one wants to be the player responsible for their team exiting a major tournament, and history shows that unsuccessful penalty takers are often ‘scapegoated’ and ostracised by their national media. Interestingly it appears to be the penalty takers rather than the goal-keepers who tend to fall victim to this negative media attention, perhaps due to the expectations of a penalty shoot-out: penalty takers are expected to score and goal-keepers are expected not to stop them. Obviously when a goal-keeper makes a winning save (e.g. David Seaman in England successful penalty shoot-out against Spain in Euro 1996) they become a hero in the eyes of the media, but rarely are they subjected to the same media condemnation as a player who misses a penalty when they fail to save a penalty.

The penalty shoot-out is a common feature of a major football tournament and we have already seen two exhilarating penalty shoot-outs in the early knockout stages of the 2014 World Cup in the Brazil v Chile and Costa Rica v Greece matches. Penalty shoot-outs have even been known to determine the final result of a tournament. For example the winners of both the 2006 Men’s World Cup final and the 2011 Women’s World Cup final were decided by penalty shoot-outs. More recently the England U17 squad won the 2014 European Championships on penalties against Holland.

As a result of this teams often focus a significant amount of effort on preparing for the possibility of a penalty shoot-out. For example, it is suggested that this was a significant factor in the decision to employ psychiatrist Steve Peters to work with the England team in the build up to the World Cup. Psychology is certainly a significant factor in the penalty shoot-out. As a sport psychologist I like to watch a player prepare to take a penalty and predict whether they will be successful – there are certain psychological cues that are indicative of the outcome. Researchers have investigated these and have identified various factors that can influence the success of the penalty shoot-out. Some of these are explored in our penalty shoot-out game:

Click here to play our penalty shoot-out game

As with most tasks, confidence is key. A player who is confident and believes that they will score is more likely to do so. There is no room for doubt in a penalty shoot-out. Confidence can be seen through visual cues such as eye contact. A player who lacks confidence may avoid making eye contact with the goal keeper. Good goal keepers recognise these signals and will draw strength from an opponent who won’t make eye contact. Additionally, a successful penalty taker will normally take their time and not rush. Rushing can be seen as a sign of panic, whereas someone who waits is giving themselves time to compose themselves before executing the skill, perhaps utilising psychological techniques like imagery and positive self-talk before taking the penalty kick. Research by Jordet has suggested that England players have historically taken their penalties quicker (0.28seconds) than any other nation in major tournaments and so psychological intervention may help England players. A player may use imagery to rehearse taking a successful penalty in their head before taking it and may use positive self-talk to enhance their confidence and focus.

Experience is obviously an important factor for penalty takers. Players who have previously successfully taken penalties and won penalty shoot-outs are more likely to be confident in their ability to take a successful penalty. The reverse of that however is that those who have had bad experiences are less likely to be confident, which goes some way to explaining the serial penalty shoot-out defeats seen in teams such as England and Holland – the culture of expecting to lose a penalty shoot-out perpetuates. Research by Jordet revealed  that success rates in penalty shoot-outs are considerably higher for teams who have won their last two penalty shoot-outs compared to those who have lost their last two shoot-outs (89% versus 57%), even if the team membership is changed. Interestingly ‘higher status’ players, whilst likely having more experience to draw on, are sometimes less successful in penalty shoot-out situations; perhaps because the pressure of expectation is far greater for them than for players of lower status.

This shows that the successful penalty taker is one who is highly confident and copes well with pressure. Next time you watch a penalty shoot-out, watch the players prepare and see if you can predict whether or not they will be successful.

The Relationship Between Athlete and Guide

By Caroline Heaney

As I have been watching Open University student Jade Etherington and her fellow visually impaired alpine skiers in the Winter Paralympics I have been struck by the amazing relationship that exists between skier and guide.

There seem to be two key features present in a successful coach-guide relationship: trust and understanding. The athlete needs to place an extreme level of trust in the guide to lead her appropriately and the guide needs to have a high level of understanding of the athlete in order to guide her appropriately. Failure to have this trust and understanding could have a significant impact on performance.

Jade Etherington and her guide Caroline Powell, having won 3 medals in Sochi, clearly have a very strong athlete-guide relationship that appears to demonstrate these qualities of trust and understanding. The two demonstrate high levels of task and social cohesion, with both appearing to be very focused on working together to achieve Paralympic success (task cohesion), and appearing to get on well (social cohesion). This is quite remarkable considering that they have only been together for less than a year. Guide Powell describes their relationship below:

“It’s basically a friendship so you have to build a friendship and that can take years. In our case we had to build it within a short space of time, but we were really honest with each other from the beginning. She taught me so much about guiding, I just went with what she said and it’s worked. It’s come together now and we’re so happy.”

Kelly Gallagher, who made history in Sochi by becoming Great Britain’s first ever Winter Paralympics Gold medallist, also seems to have an exceptional relationship with her guide Charlotte Evans. She speaks about the strong connection and understanding they have:

“…she’s so in tune with me that she can tell how I’m skiing just by the noises I make”

I have been unable to identify any research that examines the relationship between the visually impaired athlete and guide, but the dyadic relationship may be similar in nature to the relationship between team-mates in a sports team (e.g. a rowing pair) or the coach-athlete relationship. Jowett has researched the coach-athlete relationship extensively and in her 3+1 Cs model she identifies four components of a successful coach-athlete relationship: closeness, commitment, complementarity and co-orientation. Intuitively these qualities seem applicable to the athlete-guide relationship.

The achievements of Great Britain’s visually impaired alpine skiers in the Winter Paralympics highlight the importance of the coach-guide relationship and perhaps there is a need for research to examine this unique and very important relationship.

British Prospects at the Winter Paralympics

By Caroline Heaney

Today sees the start of the Winter Paralympics which provides us with the opportunity to witness yet more extraordinary feats of athletic ability in Sochi. The London 2012 Summer Paralympics helped raise the profile of Paralympic sport like never before and hopefully the Sochi games will do the same, despite the danger of the event being overshadowed by recent events in Ukraine.

So what do the Winter Paralympics have in store for us, and who are Paralympics GBs medal prospects? The sports included in the Winter Paralympics programme are:  Alpine skiing, Wheelchair Curling, Ice Sledge Hockey, Nordic Skiing and Biathlon. Great Britain have a squad of 15 athletes in Sochi and whilst Paralympics GB are a dominant force in the summer games, they have yet to win a gold medal at the Winter Paralympics. Paralympics GBs best performance to date came in the 1984 Winter Paralympics where they won 4 silver and 6 bronze medals. The medal target for Sochi is 2 to 6 medals.

Alpine Skiing

Alpine skiing comprises the downhill, super-G, giant slalom, slalom and super combined disciplines across three categories of disability that will see standing, sit-ski and visually impaired events. Snowboard cross will also be making its Paralympic debut.

British interest: Mike Brennan, Jade Etherington and guide Caroline Powell, Kelly Gallagher and guide Charlotte Evans, 15 year old Mille Knight (opening ceremony flag bearer) and guide Rachael Ferrier, Ben Sneesby, Anna Turney, and James Whitley. Kelly Gallagher represents one of Paralympic GBs strongest medal hopes.

Wheelchair Curling

Wheelchair curling is essentially the same game as we saw at the Winter Olympics with one key difference – there is no sweeping. Also, unlike the Olympic event, Paralympic curling is contested by mixed gender teams. Following a silver medal in 2006 and the medal winning achievements of their Olympic counterparts the Paralympic GB curling team are under pressure to gain a place on the podium and they are in a strong position to achieve this.

British interest: Skip Angie Malone, competing in her 3rd Paralympics, will be joined by Gregor Ewan, Jim Gault, Bob McPherson, and Aileen Neilson. Angie made history in 2010 by becoming the first female skip in international competition.

Ice Sledge Hockey

Ice sledge hockey, as its name suggests, is played on sledges. Otherwise it is similar to the Winter Olympics version of the game. Paralympics GB does not have a team in the event, but Canada and the USA are big medal contenders.

Nordic Skiing and Biathlon

Peter Young was the last British cross-country skiing medallist when he won a bronze in 1994. Sadly there are no British competitors in the cross-country skiing or biathlon events in Sochi, which will see sitting, standing and visually impaired races. This sport looks set to be a favourite of the home crowd with Russian athletes expected to dominate.

The Winter Paralympics will no doubt provide another amazing spectacle of sport and with many in the British team making their Paralympics debut and potential British medal prospects we could see some new sporting role models emerging from these games.

Bibliography

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/disability-sport/25580284

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/disability-sport/25605833

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/disability-sport/26422128

http://paralympics.channel4.com/competitions/sochi-2014-winter-paralympics/sports/index.html

http://paralympics.channel4.com/competitions/sochi-2014-winter-paralympics/athletes/index.html

http://sochi.paralympics.org.uk/athletes

Keeping Athletes ‘Appy’

By Caroline Heaney

A few months ago I wrote an article for The Sport and Exercise Scientist titled ‘Keeping Sport and Exercise Scientists ‘appy’ – Online and mobile technologies in Sport and Exercise Science‘. In this article I explored the potential uses of online technologies and mobile apps for sport and exercise scientists, drawing on my experience of working as a sport psychologist to a national winter sports squad in the build up to and during the 2010 Winter Olympics. During this time I made extensive use of online technologies, such as Skype and Facebook, to keep in touch with the athletes, but at that time very little use of mobile apps. A lot has changed in 4 years – since the last Winter Olympics I have increasingly used apps, not only in my capacity as a sport psychologist, but also in my everyday life and as an athlete. This has led me to reflect on how athletes in Sochi might be using apps and online technologies into their lives.

Social Media

London 2012 was reported to be the most social media reported Olympics in history with some tagging it the ‘social media games’ or the ‘socialympics’. Use of social media tools such as Faceboook and Twitter has certainly rocketed since previous Olympic Games and Sochi looks set to follow London’s lead in the social media stakes, despite the reported heavy restrictions placed on athletes using Twitter during the games.

Mobile Apps

Social media apps will more than likely be used by athletes and support staff in Sochi, but what other apps are likely to be used? There are certainly lots of sport and fitness related apps out there at the Olympic athlete’s disposal – relaxation based apps, apps to measure exercise intensity, breath control apps, video analysis apps, apps to track your run, dietary analysis apps  – the list is endless.

So what are your recommendations? Are there any apps you would recommended for athletes or support staff? Share your favourite apps using the ‘Leave a Reply’ function at the bottom of the page.

Injured at the Olympics

By Caroline Heaney

Imagine you have spent the last four years of your life preparing for one special moment, only to have it snatched away from your grasp at the last moment. That scenario can be a reality for the Olympic athlete who sustains an injury before or during the Olympic Games.

Yesterday it was announced that bobsleigh athlete Craig Pickering was returning home from the Winter Olympics without even having stepped on the Sochi bobsleigh track. His exit was the result of a back injury. Pickering stated that he was devestated not to be able to compete in his first Winter Olympics.

Pickering is not alone. Research examining the psychological impact of sports injury shows that the occurence of a sports injury can lead to several negative reactions such as anger, frustration, anxiety and depression.

Some models of psychological reaction to injury even suggest that a sports injury can constitute a form of loss, and for the athlete whose Olympic dream has been crushed by injury this is certainly evident.

A tale of two injuries…

Sport psychology plays an important role in helping the athlete to cope with sports injury. Psychological strategies such as imagery, self talk, goal setting, relaxation and social support have all been shown to aid sports injury rehabilitation. A mentally strong athlete will cope better with injury and grow from the experience.

Pickering’s team mate, bobsleigh driver John Jackson, has certainly shown an ability to grow from the experience of sports injury. Back in July he suffered a serious Achilles’ tendon rupture – an injury that could almost certainly have put an end to his Sochi Olympic dream. Yet thanks to a positive attitude and some pioneering surgery he will be competing in Sochi, and following a some recent good performances at the European championships and World Cup he is a genuine medal prospect. It is claimed that Jackson has returned sronger than ever before. Jackson recently tweeted “To all injured athletes. Never give up faith, never give up on your dream and fight to come back better than you were. Believe in yourself” – inspirational words for any injured athlete.

Bibliography

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/winter-olympics/26080036
http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/winter-sports/24025036
http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/winter-sports/24474863
https://twitter.com/JohnJacksonGB