Stress and anxiety related to post-injury trauma in athletes is a latent problem in sport. The use of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) allows sports psychologists to intervene with their athletes more effectively to help them into their recovery and achieve peak sport performance.
Analyze the EMDR therapy effect in the psychophysiological responses of four athletes with stress related to a traumatic event during sports practice.
Four athletes (22.25 ± 1.71 years; 11.5 ± 2.65 years of experience) participated in a single-group pre-experimental study. The Sport Psychology Department of the institution approved the study for its application, which also followed the statement of the declaration of Helsinki. The participants had been medically cleared to practice their sport after sustaining a severe injury, but they expressed significant difficulty in performing optimally yet. The Competitive State Anxiety Inventory-2RD was applied to measure the anxiety and self-confidence levels before, after and two weeks later EMDR therapy intervention. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing standard protocol therapy was carried out to identify the dysfunctional memories to be reprocessed, address the abnormal behaviors as trauma consequences, and develop the behavioral changes to manage the trauma. Heart rate variability parameters used as biofeedback were monitored during the EMDR protocol to associate with moments of stress and relief. Data analysis was performed using the smallest worthwhile change (SWC) of Hopkins to compare the results in the different moments of the protocol and study.
All four athletes reported likely and most likely beneficial changes (according to the SWC) in their levels of anxiety and self-confidence after the intervention with the EMRD therapy as well as at two weeks afterward. Heart rate variability (HRV) parameters linked with parasympathetic activity were reduced and the sympathetic parameters increase their levels when the intervention protocol induced stressor memories, observing an opposite behavior when EMDR phases let the athlete be relaxed or getting relief.
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing is a therapy is effective to manage a sport injury related psychologic trauma. Furthermore both, LnRMSSD and LnSS parameters of the HRV can be used as a biofeedback strategy for a better efficacy of EMDR-based treatment.
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