Academic journal article Journal of Sport Behavior

Catastrophizing and Pain Perception in Recreational Ballet Dancers

Academic journal article Journal of Sport Behavior

Catastrophizing and Pain Perception in Recreational Ballet Dancers

Article excerpt

Pain is a central aspect of involvement in physical activity and sport (Sullivan, Tripp, Rodgers, & Stanish, 2000). Sport psychologists describe pain as the most pervasive and debilitating barrier to rehabilitation and recovery (Heil, 1993).

Athletic pain research applies to ballet dancers because of the rigorous strain placed on the body and mind, which increases with years of training (Hamilton, Hamilton, Meltzer, Marshall, & Molnar, 1989). A ballet dancer is a combination of an artist and a high-performance athlete (Leanderson, Eriksson, Nilsson, & Wykman, 1996) that endures physical and mental stress similar to other athletes during training and performance (e.g., varsity runners; Encarnacion, Meyers, Ryan, & Pease, 2001). Like athletes in competitive sports, ballet dancers perform in highly demanding environments, with risk of physical injury (Patterson, Smith, & Everett, 1998). In spite of increased risk of injury and pain, pain experience research is sparse in dancers and warrants further research into this athletic art form (Encarnacion et al.).

Pain research focussing on ballet dancers finds that the majority will suffer at least one injury throughout the course of study, with many suffering multiple or chronic injuries (Patterson et al., 1998; Garrick & Requa, 1993; Liederbach & Compagno, 2001; Macchi & Crossman, 1996). Khan et al. (1995) cite incorrect ballet technique as a cause for many of the injuries among dancers. In particular, training in pointe work, a technique that places the weight of the body onto the toes through the aid of wooden blocks often occurs before physical readiness, leading to injury risks (Khan et al.). Prevalence and recovery data suggest that women are taught from a young age that ballet is synonymous with pain (Khan et al.). To maintain status among their peers, dancers often overlook the presence of pain, resulting in acute injuries that may manifest into chronic disorders (Encarnacion et al., 2001).

A study exploring personality characteristics, stresses, and injury patterns of dancers in national ballet companies in America revealed that they are overachievers who endure more injuries and pain (Hamilton et al., 1989). This perseverance puts dancers at risk for injury and long-term pain and this relationship is stronger with more experience (Hamilton et al.), suggesting that continued involvement in dance might be related to pain appraisal strategies that allow an injured dancer to continue to dance. High injury prevalence in ballet is well documented, however few studies address pain appraisal in ballet (Encarnacion et al., 2001). Ballet dancers will often not seek medical attention for injury, leading to possible psychological impairment and exacerbation of injury through growing fear and low self-assurance (Encarnacion et al.).

Catastrophizing, which has been described as a negative cognitive appraisal strategy, predicts pain in athletes (Sullivan, Bishop, & Pivik, 1995). Encarnacion et al. (2001) surveyed dancers ranging in skill to quantify pain appraisal styles. Although no differences existed in pain appraisal across skill level, they suggested a trend for higher-skilled dancers to report less catastrophizing. When comparing pain appraisals of professional dancers to other athletes, dancers tend to catastrophize more. Thus, top-skilled dancers are seasoned to cope with pain through vigorous training (Encarnacion et al., 2001).

In addition to injury prevalence and pain appraisal styles of ballet performers, research documenting pain perception of dancers also exists. Research shows that athletes have a higher pain tolerance than non-athletes and that they report lower pain intensity (Sullivan et al., 2000; Ahem & Lohr, 1997; Hamilton et al., 1989). Professional dancers report greater levels of pain tolerance but show greater pain intensity ratings than university students (Tajet-Foxell & Rose, 1995). …

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