13 June 2014
Biofeedback and Neurofeedback in Sport
When you look at sporting achievements over the last decades, it seems like humans have gotten faster, better and stronger in nearly every way. What looked like a miraculous performance 15 years ago is now perceived as an average achievement reached by many school athletes. Nowadays, athletes are constantly seeking ways to enhance their physical abilities. They work on their conditioning, mechanics and employ experts from different areas to develop the best game strategies. But in recent years, much more attention had been placed on the mental side of competition.
What is happening inside the mind & body during the performance?
To obtain an inside view of our brain and body as we think, feel and perform, what the body/mind is doing at rest, during competitive task, sport professionals now have the opportunity to use the most cutting edge psychological or psycho-physiological techniques behind peak performance, a method which helps to connect the dots between mind-body interactions, called biofeedback.
Biofeedback training teaches athletes how to control and alter their physiological functions such as heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, muscle tension, breathing or brain activity in relation to healthy behaviour. Such self-regulation skills can help them move towards more optimal level of functioning.
An athlete’s emotions and thoughts lead to changes in physiology that are both measurable and controllable.
The athletes can develop greater self-awareness of how they hold tension and anxiety in the body and self-regulation techniques to decrease that tension. They became more aware of their mental state, and through regulation and control of their level of anxiety and tension in the body, they enhance their ability to focus and perform at their optimal level.
If your competitor is handling his stress better, then he is ahead of you.
The role of sport psychology and sport science is increasingly recognized as an important component of the sports team. A multidisciplinary sports science approach that caters to a variety of athletes' needs plays an increasing role in guiding athletes toward injury prevention, sport-specific training and performance enhancement. And, this is the reason why sport science experts are expressing more interested in the intersection of sport psychology, human psycho-physiology and neuroscience.
Herts EEG-Biofeedback, a leading Hertfordshire biofeedback practice who is seeing an increased demand for peak performance training. "Working as a biofeedback trainer, psychologist and performance coach with clients from high pressure environment, I was recently approached by a sport science lecturer of City of Westminster College in London, Miss Deandra Smith to introduce the concept of biofeedback in sport to the students of Sport Development and Fitness course as a part of their sport psychology program", said Zuzana. "The main purpose of the presentation was to introduce biofeedback as an efficient and powerful method of performance enhancement which combines the best knowledge and expertise of sport psychology, physiology, neuroscience and advancements in technology."
The lecture contained a basic theory of the method, history of biofeedback in sport and introduction to the different modalities of biofeedback such as temperature, heart rate variability, galvanic skin response, respiration and neurofeedback. Students were first taught how to use biofeedback without any equipment - just by observing the activity of their own bodies to decrease the level of anxiety by regulating the breathing.
Adding a physiology component to the training program allows both the athlete and trainer to see their progress.
After becoming more familiar with the role of biofeedback in sport psychology they got an opportunity to step into the shoes of sport psychologists and prepare the assessments and treatment protocols for two different case studies. However, the most entertaining part occurred when Zuzana presented a real time application of biofeedback by attaching different types of electrodes on volunteers. "Students could experience how to manage and decrease anxiety caused by peer pressure and sustain focus while performing under difficult conditions." said Zuzana.
"In sport there are fine lines between victory and defeat and it is often the marginal gains in something that not all other athletes or teams practice that can make the difference." - Zuzana Kovacova-Radacovska
An increasing number of elite and professional athletes and teams are adding a peak performance physiology training element to their overall training regime. The BFE has had the pleasure of working with a number of professionals in the field and sharing their knowledge in the form of specialized software, online education and regional workshops that guide professionals interested in learning more about this exciting field.
“The future appears promising as I’m currently in the process of agreeing to deliver similar presentation to the sport science students of a local private college. I hope more colleges and universities will express an interest to give their students a unique opportunity to become familiar with the method of biofeedback which can significantly help to improve athletic performance”, says Zuzana.
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