Philadelphia, PA, May 17, 2012 Stories of athletes bravely "playing through the pain" are relatively common and support the widespread belief that they experience pain differently than non-athletes. Yet, the scientific data on pain perception in athletes has been inconsistent, and sometimes contradictory. Investigators from the University of Heidelberg have conducted a meta-analysis of available research and find that in fact, athletes can indeed tolerate a higher level of pain than normally active people. However, pain threshold, the minimum intensity at which a stimulus is perceived as painful, did not differ in athletes and normal controls. Their findings are published in the June issue of Pain.
"Our analysis reveals that pain perception differs in athletes compared to normally active controls," says lead investigator Jonas Tesarz, MD. "Studies in athletes offer the opportunity for an evaluation of the physical and psychological effects of regular activity on pain perception, which might foster the development of effective types of exercise for relief in pain patients."
Researchers reviewed fifteen studies that evaluated experimentally induced pain threshold or tolerance in athletes compared to normally active controls. 568 athletes and 331 normally active controls were included. Eight of the studies were conducted in the USA, two in Canada, one in Australia, and four were conducted in Europe. The studies, which included both men and women, evaluated endurance sports, game sports, and strength sports. Twelve studies reported on pain tolerance, and nine studies examined pain threshold.
Athletes were found to have consistently higher pain tolerance in comparison to normally active adults. The magnitude of pain that athletes could withstand varied depending upon the type of sport in which they participate. For example, endurance athletes had a moderate tolerance for pain and their scores were fairly uniform. Athl
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Elsevier Health Sciences