Football players are less likely to be injured if they practice mindfulness techniques as part of their training regime, new research has revealed.
Sports scientists from Abertay University were part of a collaborative international study where two groups, each with around 80 young male elite footballers, had team training sessions and competitive fixtures monitored throughout one season.
Before the beginning of the season, the test group was given mindfulness tasks based on the Mindfulness, Acceptance, Commitment (MAC) approach, while the control group were given more basic presentations featuring information on the psychology of sport injury.
The mindfulness intervention consisted of one 45-min session per week for a total of seven weeks, with athletes trained to maintain present moment awareness, accept their thoughts and feelings, focus on task-relevant stimuli, and improve commitment to goals.
The study was carried out with football (soccer) clubs in Iran, with participants ranging in age between 16 and 19.
At the end of the season, results showed the mindfulness group sustained nearly 40% fewer injuries in total, with 22 players injured in comparison to the control group’s 36.
There was a similar picture when measuring total days lost to injury, with the mindfulness group losing just 218 compared with 516 for the control group.
The data also showed the mindfulness group was less likely to suffer any category of injury, based on a scale rating mild, moderate and severe.
In addition, athletes in the mindfulness group increased their ability to cope with stress or anxiousness, as well as improving their attention skills.
Dr Luis Calmeiro (above) of Abertay University’s Division of Sport and Exercise Sciences was a collaborator on the study, which was carried out in partnership with three Iranian institutions - Shahrood University of Technology, Allameh Tababa'i University and University of Tehran - as well as Springfield College in the US.
He is a lecturer in Sport and Exercise Psychology, focusing on the study of cognitive and emotional processes in sport.
Dr Calmeiro said the mindfulness approach gave players more cognitive capacity to focus clearly during games and training, helping them to adapt to conditons and avoid injury.
He added: “These results are very meaningful as it suggests that the time invested in a psychological intervention such as mindfulness may result in considerable gains for the teams, not only in the reduction of number of days lost to injury and resultant financial burden, but also on the young athletes’ quality of life. This is strong evidence in support of the incorporation of mindfulness in athletes’ training regimen.”
Click here to view the full research paper.