2010 Grant Recipient: Validating the Effectiveness of Psychological Interventions through Physiological Markers

Hamson-Utley JJ, Hansen RA, Olpin M, Dawson, M.: Weber State University; Ogden, Utah.

Context: The current approach to injury-rehabilitation blends both physical and psychological techniques; however, research has yet to quantify the usefulness of certain psychological interventions, which may inhibit practitioners from employing the most beneficial skills.Objective: To examine the effects of cognitive and somatic relaxation interventions on physiological and subjective assessments of stress. Design: Randomized, double-blind experimental design with a control group. Setting: Controlled laboratory setting. Participants:97 college-aged students (age= 20.65±4.38 years) including males (n=32; 33.0%) and females (n=65; 67.0%). Interventions: A15-minute iPod script led the participant through a somatic breathing exercise, a cognitive relaxation exercise, or audible white noise. Main Outcome Measures: Physiological markers included blood pressure, heart rate and saliva cortisol (prepost); subjective report included the Stress-O-Meter (acute stress on a 10-point scale; pre-post) and the Perceived Stress Scale (measure of stress over the past month).Results: There was a significant difference in reduction of cortisol (F2, 97=15.62, <.000); post-hoc revealed that the cognitive (-.42433) and somatic (.-56069) were significantly different from the control. Participant subjective reports of stress were significantly different from pre-intervention to postintervention (F2, 97=.693, < .000), however, uncorrelated with physiological stress (cortisol levels). Comparing men and women, there was no significant difference in the reduction of cortisol (F1, 96=2.467, < .120). Sex differences were significant when comparing subjective stress levels; females reported higher scores on the SOM1 (F1, 96=5.539, < .021), the SOM2 (F1, 96=3.939, < .050) and the PSS (F1, 96=4.436, < .038). Conclusions: A 15-minute relaxation intervention has an effect on cortisol levels in college-aged individuals. Females reported higher levels of stress that were not correlated with higher pre-test cortisol levels. Practitioners that work with athletes can use relaxation interventions to reduce post-injury stress and should be sensitive to the female athlete’s perceived level of stress.

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