Saturday, August 23, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Prevent choking under pressure

Athletes who clenched a ball in their left hand before competing, performed better under pressure than those who held a ball in their right hand.

Prevent choking under pressure

Squeezing left hand can help athletes avoid choking under pressure

By Justin D’Ancona

“Choking” is something all sports fans are familiar with. We love to put the “choke” label on athletes and talk about how they perform under pressure.

Well, according to research done by Dr. Juergen Beckmann, chair of sport psychology at the Technical University of Munich in Germany, there is a way to exterminate those ‘ants-in-your-pants’ during crunch time.

You just have to squeeze a ball in your left hand before competing.

In three separate studies using semi-pro soccer players, judo experts and badminton players, those who clenched a ball in their left hand prior to activity performed better under strenuous situations than their counterparts who held a ball in their right hand.

Athletes’ skills are mostly instinctive and automatic. Kicking a soccer ball or shooting a free throw, for example, requires little thought to carry out the task. When athletes begin to perform poorly, it can be because they are over-thinking their next movement, rather than just letting the skills they developed take over.

The left hemisphere of the brain is responsible for rumination -- or the repetitive focus on stress and the consequences that follow -- and the right hemisphere is connected to the performance of automated movements, like the ones used by athletes.

Stay with me.

The left hemisphere of the brain also controls the body movements of the right side of the body and the right hemisphere controls the body movements of the left side. So, by squeezing a ball in your left hand before competition you essentially activate the right hemisphere of the brain, making it more likely you’ll rely on the skills you’ve worked on since you were a kid.

Got it?

Maybe this is how LeBron James finally got over the hump and got his coveted ring while shedding his ‘choke’ label. It seems like all the latest trends originated in Germany anyway. Who knows, but I think I’ll give it a try before my basketball game tonight. Hey, I could use all the help I can get with my jumper.


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Kelly O'Shea Sports Medicine & Fitness Editor,
Brian Cammarota, MEd, ATC, CSCS, CES Partner at Symetrix Sports Performance
Desirea D. Caucci, PT, DPT, OCS Co-owner of Conshohocken Physical Therapy, Board Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist
Michael G. Ciccotti, M.D. Head Team Physician for Phillies & St. Joe's; Rothman Institute
Julie Coté, PT, MPT, OCS, COMT Magee Rehabilitation Hospital
Peter F. DeLuca, M.D. Head Team Physician for Eagles, Head Orthopedic Surgeon for Flyers; Rothman Institute
Joel H. Fish, Ph.D. Director of The Center For Sport Psychology; Sports Psychology Consultant for 76ers & Flyers
R. Robert Franks, D.O. Team Physician for USA Wrestling, Consultant for Phillies; Rothman Institute
Ashley B. Greenblatt, ACE-CPT Certified Personal Trainer, The Sporting Club at The Bellevue
Eugene Hong, MD, CAQSM, FAAFP Team Physician for Drexel, Philadelphia Univ., Saint Joe’s, & U.S. National Women’s Lacrosse
Martin J. Kelley, PT, DPT, OCS Advanced Clinician at Penn Therapy and Fitness, Good Shepherd Penn Partners
Julia Mayberry, M.D. Attending Hand & Upper Extremity Surgeon, Main Line Hand Surgery P.C.
Jim McCrossin, ATC Strength and Conditioning Coach, Flyers and Phantoms
Kevin Miller Fitness Coach, Philadelphia Union
Heather Moore, PT, DPT, CKTP Owner of Total Performance Physical Therapy, North Wales, Pa.
David Rubenstein, M.D. Team Orthopedist for 76ers; Main Line Health Lankenau Medical Center
Robert Senior Event coverage, Sports Doc contributor
Justin Shaginaw, MPT, ATC Athletic Trainer for US Soccer Federation; Aria 3B Orthopaedic Institute
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