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Role of Concentration in Injury Paul Dent Introduction Paul Dent, MSc Lecturer, Brunel University BASES Accredited Sport & Exercise Psychologist Reviewer SE and Accreditation Applications Research: “Emotional Responses and Coping Skills in Injured Elite Athletes”

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  • Paul Dent, MSc
  • Lecturer, Brunel University
  • BASES Accredited Sport & Exercise Psychologist
  • Reviewer SE and Accreditation Applications
  • Research:

“Emotional Responses and Coping Skills in Injured Elite Athletes”

  • Contact:
previous work
Previous Work
  • London Wasps
  • English Institute of Sport
    • British Judo
    • BAoFE
    • Ladies Golf
    • Injured Athletes
  • Platform Diving
    • Olympic Silver Medallists Athens 2004
    • Commonwealth Games 2006
  • Definition
  • Types & Shifting of Attentional Focus
  • Attentional Problems
  • Choking
  • Self-Talk
  • Tips & Exercises for Improving Concentration
  • Focus and the Injured Athlete
what is concentration
What is Concentration?

Concentration is the ability to maintain focus on relevant environmental cues.

Also called “attention”.

types of attentional focus
Types of Attentional Focus



Assess Perform


Analyze Rehearse

four types of focus

Used to rapidly assess a situation


Used to focus exclusively on one or two external cues


Used to analyze and plan


Used to mentally rehearse an upcoming performance or control an emotional state

Four Types of Focus
identifying types of focus
Identifying Types of Focus
  • A “scrum half” is making a decision on which play to call
  • A bowler scans for tension before starting her approach
  • A golfer recalls a few previous similar shots when deciding on a club
  • A tennis player watches his toss as he starts his serve
  • A coach figures out the starting line-up
shifting attentional focus
Shifting Attentional Focus

When the environment changes rapidly, attentional focus must also change rapidly

  • Examples?
  • Shifting Exercise
attentional problems
Attentional Problems


Within ourselves, thoughts, worries, concerns


Stimuli from the environment

external distracters
External Distracters
  • Visual distractions
  • Auditory distractions
  • Gamesmanship (trash talking, psyching out opponent)
  • Examples?
internal distracters
Internal Distracters

I can’t wait to celebrate!

  • Attending to past events (e.g. Lisa)
  • Attending to future events (“what if…”)
  • Choking
  • Overanalyzing body mechanics
  • Fatigue
  • Self-Talk
self talk any statement or thought
SELF -TALK(Any Statement or Thought)

POSITIVE Self-Talk Increases:

Self-esteem Motivation

Attentional Focus


NEGATIVE Self-Talk is:

Critical Self-demeaning


Anxiety Producing

self talk cont


*Skill Acquisition

*Breaking Bad Habits

*Initiating Action

*Sustaining Effort

Changing Self-Talk:

*Thought Stopping

*Changing Negative ST

to Positive ST

Self-Talk (cont.)
An attentional process that leads to impaired performance and the inability to retain control over performance without outside assistanceChoking
tips for improving concentration on site
Practice with Distractions

Use Cue Words to Focus (instructional & motivational)

Employ Non-judgmental Thinking

Establish Routines*

Practice Eye Control

Stay Focused in the Present

Overlearn Skills

Develop Competition Plans

Tips for Improving Concentration on Site
competition routine rugby throw in
Competition Routine Rugby Throw-In
  • Assess field position on way to line
  • Get ball and take deep breath
  • Look at ball & adjust hand position
  • Stagger feet and shift balance backwards
  • Raise ball overhead & keep elbows in and hips straight
  • Take a deep breath
  • Make call and make eye contact with target
  • Recoil and snap at waist
exercises to improve concentration
Exercises to Improve Concentration
  • Learn to Shift Attention
  • Learn to Maintain Focus
  • Search for Relevant Cues
  • Rehearse Game Concentration
  • Parking Thoughts
attentional focus with respect to injury
Attentional Focus with Respect to Injury
  • Focus is perhaps the most neglected and misunderstood psychological contributor to rehabilitation and return to sport
  • Facilitating cues include pain (as information), proprioceptive responses, physical dimensions such as range of motion and strength, information that you provide, support from others and feedback from physical therapy equipment
injury and attention
Injury and Attention
  • Interfering cues are comprised of negative thoughts, anxiety, pain (as a inhibitor), preoccupation with the rehabilitated area on return to sport, pressure from others to recover quickly, distractions during treatment and comparisons to others on return to sport.
  • Injured athletes often possess either external or internal focus styles that involve a preference to focus on external or internal information and that allow greater ease and comfort in processing the respective kinds of information
  • Injured athletes can learn to adjust focus much like a the beam of a torch in which it can be widened to illuminate a large area or narrowed to brighten a small area.
injury and attention24
Injury and Attention
  • Patients with an external focus need to focus away from disruptive internal cues and onto necessary external cues such as instruction and feedback
  • Those with an internal style need to block out external distractions and focus on relevant internal rehabilitation cues
  • Injured athletes should balance long-term, short-term focus, pay attention to the four P’s (positive, process, present, progress), control their eyes and use keywords and rehabilitation imagery
case study
Case Study:
  • Working in pairs, identify a patient who perhaps is lacking in focus through their rehabilitation,
  • Design a short intervention aimed at altering their attentional style / focus and state how you will monitor progress of the patient.