Many people are exploring the benefits that mindfulness can bring at the moment, but research conducted by Abertay University in Dundee has shone the spotlight on another potential benefit of being more mindful.
In a study conducted during last year’s football season with players aged 16 to 19 who play football with clubs in Iran, researchers found that the players who underwent mindfulness training at the beginning of the season not only suffered fewer injuries while playing sport, but also needed to take less time off to recover if they did get injured.
The group of 80 players who participated in the study were split into two groups at the start of the season. One group were given mindfulness tasks based on the Mindfulness, Acceptance, Commitment (MAC) approach, Herald Scotland reported.
The other group of players watched more basic presentations about the sport psychology of sports injuries.
By the end of the season, the group who attended the mindfulness sessions reported 40 per cent fewer injuries than the ones who attended the more general training.
What’s more, those in the mindfulness group only lost 218 days of the season to injuries, compared to the 516 days that members of the control group spent off the pitch.
The researchers also noted that the players who received mindfulness training were better able to cope with stress and anxiety than their counterparts, as well as improving their skills in relation to attention.
Dr Luis Calmeiro, sport and exercise psychology lecturer at Abertay University, Dundee, commented: “These results are very meaningful as it suggests that the time invested in psychological intervention such as mindfulness may result in considerable gains for the teams.”
He added that the benefits come “not only in the reduction of the number of days lost to injury and resultant financial burden, but also on the young athletes’ quality of life”.
Speaking to the BBC earlier this month, Dr Calmeiro explained that mindfulness is “a state of non-judging awareness”, adding that it’s “an acceptance of whatever is going on in our minds, in our thoughts, in our feelings, our body sensations”.
He also told the news provider that the athletes in the mindfulness group who did suffer from injuries were the ones who had the lower scores of mindfulness.
An article for NBC News in March shared the observations of Sara Mitchell, a sport psychologist who is working predominantly with the US Paralympic team to prepare the athletes for their next competition.
She explained that introducing mindfulness is “a newer approach to working with athletes”, but one that she’s found to be highly beneficial.
Mitchell said that many studies have demonstrated the importance of mental focus when it comes to performance at high-profile sporting events, noting that mindfulness helps athletes to develop this focus.
“[If you look at] two athletes of very similar skill sets, the one with the sharper mental focus and ability to really execute their mental training is the one that’s going to win on any given day,” she asserted.