How Teens & Adults Feel About Physical Activity & Physical Education: A Survey Conducted for NASPE

The lack of physical activity among Americans of all ages is so critical that it is considered to be a major health risk. Recently, the New England Journal of Medicine reported that girls become so sluggish in their teenage years that many barely move at all. African American girls are even more sedentary than whites, according to the report, and this sets the stage for a lifetime of obesity and associated chronic illnesses like high blood pressure and diabetes.

The 1996 Surgeon General’s Report on Physical Activity and Health reports that Americans become increasingly less active with each year of age. Research links inactivity among children to sedentary living among adults. Inactivity and poor diet cause at least 300,000 deaths a year in the United States, more than result from infectious disease, firearms, motor vehicles, and illicit drug use combined. Physical activity (or more directly, inactivity) is a risk factor in many diseases: stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, various cancers, diabetes, depression, obesity, and more.

Survey Methodology

The survey, which was conducted by Opinion Research Corp. International of Princeton, New Jersey, is based on interviews with a nationally representative sample of 1,021 adults (18 years of age and older, 50% male, 50% female) and 500 teens ages 12-17. The margin of error for the adult sample is ± 3 percentage points; when broken into subgroups (those with and without children in the household), the margin of error is ± 6 percentage points. The margin of error for the teen sample is ± 4 percentage points. All interviewing was done August 1-4, 2002. The survey was funded with an unrestricted grant from the National Soft Drink Association.

Here are the survey’s major findings concerning adults’ and teens’ beliefs.

Major Findings Concerning Adult Physical Activity

Getting Enough Physical Activity to Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle

The majority of adults (59%) feel that they are getting enough physical activity to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Men are more likely than women to feel they are getting enough physical activity to maintain a healthy lifestyle (65% vs. 53%). Adults outside metropolitan areas (65%) are more apt than adults who live in metropolitan areas (57%) to believe they are getting enough daily physical activity.

Nearly 9 in 10 (88%) American adults report that they exercise for a period of at least 30 min per week, on an average 3.9 days per week. Men are more likely than women to get at least some weekly exercise (91% vs. 84%). Adults under 55 are more likely than older adults to report having at least some weekly exercise (nearly 90% for under 55 vs. 82% for those 55 and older).

Things Which Prevent Adults from Getting Enough Physical Activity

Most adults who reported they do not get enough physical activity tended to say that work (23%), not having enough time (18%), health problems (12%), or lack of interest or motivation (12%) prevented their being physically active.

Importance of Physical Activity

Most adults (73%) state that health is the reason that physical activity is important. A number of adults also mention weight (16%), attitude (10%), and appearance (9%) as additional important reasons. Females are significantly more likely than males to mention health (77% vs. 68%) and weight (19% vs. 13%) as top reasons that physical activity is important.

Improving Job Performance

Almost 9 out of 10 adults (88%) feel that being physically fit will help them improve their job performance. Among adults aged 35-54, 91% feel their job performance is positively affected by being fit; among younger adults, those aged 18-34, 86% share that opinion.

Adults who currently have children in their household are significantly more likely than adults not sharing a household with children to believe that job performance improves with physical fitness (93% vs. 85%). Of those who believe that job performance improves with physical fitness, 93% cite “gives you more energy” as the reason for improved performance, while 85% cite “gives you greater mental alertness,” 83% choose “reduces stress,” and 60% choose “allows better time management.”

Women are much more likely than men to report feeling that, where employment is concerned, physical fitness reduces stress (86% vs. 76%) or allows better time management (65% vs. 55%).

Television Viewing and Personal Computer Usage

On average, American adults watch 2.2 hr of television per day. Women average 2.4 hr per day of television viewing, significantly more than men’s average 2.0 hr daily. Adults 55 years and over are more likely to watch 5 hr or more per day, when compared to adults ages 35-54 (15% vs. 7%) and adults ages 18-34 (15% vs. 8%). In addition, overall, adults are spending almost 2 hr (1.7 hr) each day using a personal computer for Internet browsing, electronic chat, games, and school research.

Major Findings Concerning Physical Activity of Children Sharing Surveyed Adults’ Households

Getting Enough Physical Activity to Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle

Three quarters (76%) of adults having children ages 6-17 in their households feel that their children are getting enough daily physical activity to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

School-Based Physical Education

Adults perceive that their children complete school-based physical education classes on 3.4 days per school week. About three quarters (74%) of adults having children ages 6-17 in their household feel that they have a good understanding of the physical education curriculum at the schools their children attend, and a majority of these adults (84%) perceive their children’s physical education classes in a positive light.

Nearly three fourths (73%) of American adults who have 6- to 17-year-old children in the household believe that physical education furthers the development of learning capabilities in other subject areas like math, reading, and science; more women than men hold this belief (80% vs. 65%). Adults in households with income below $25,000 are more likely (85%) than those in households with income at or above $25,000 (72%) to report feeling that physical education aids in learning other school subjects. Adults in the North Central region are most likely (82%) to agree that their child’s physical education contributes to the development of other learning capabilities.

Some reasons adults give for believing that physical education furthers their child’s development in other school subjects are that physical education “makes child more alert/aware” (26%); enables their child to better “focus/concentrate” (14%); “gives/increases energy” (9%); teaches child to “work with others” (6%); reduces stress experienced by child (6%); involves the use of math (i.e., in sports) (6%), makes child “more healthy” (5%); and provides a break from other tasks, important since children need to move around (5%).

Adults age 55 or more are those most inclined to feel that their child’s participation in physical education improves mental function overall; 71% of adults in this group believe so, while 54% of adults age 35-54 and 51% of adults age 18-34 believe so. Adults who reside in larger households (3 or more persons) are more likely to state that a child’s participation in physical education improves mental function overall (55%), as compared to adults who live alone with a child (40%).

Furthermore, adults with some college education are likelier than those without any college education to hold their child’s physical education important for reasons of health or increased energy. Five percent of the latter group (no college) cited one of those two reasons, while 13% of the former group cited health and 12% of the former group cited increased energy. It is interesting to compare these proportions with results broken down by income: Among adults with household incomes of $50,000 or more, 13% cited health and 18% cited energy, while among those with household incomes between $25,000 and $49,999, 9% cited health and 2% cited energy, and among those at less than $25,000, 9% cited health and 0% cited energy.

Daily Non-School-Based Physical Activity of Child

Surveyed adults having children in their households between 6 and 17 years of age report that their children spend an average of 2.5 hr daily in after-school physical activity. Most parents (72%) say they encourage the child’s physical activity either all the time or frequently; 7% say they infrequently or never encourage the child’s physical activity.

Broken down by region, significantly more adults in the West (53%) encourage children’s physical activity all of the time than in the Northeast (30%) or North Central (28%) regions.

Things Which Prevent Child from Getting Enough Physical Activity

Television (42%) and computers and video games (41%) are the barriers to child’s physical activity most commonly cited by adults whose households include a child. Lack of interest or motivation (29%), too much homework (28%), and lack of access to safe facilities (21%) follow closely behind.

On average, the child of a parent surveyed for this study spends 2.2 hr each day watching television, 1.9 hr each day reading or doing homework, 1.4 hr daily on the computer/Internet, 1.2 hr playing video games, and 1.1 hr daily talking on the telephone.

Physical Activity and Child’s Self-Esteem

The majority of the surveyed adults having children ages 6-17 (84%) feel that participation in physical activity (e.g., a sport) has a positive effect on a child’s self-esteem. A particularly high percentage (94%) of adults in the Northeast region affirms the connection between physical activity and self-esteem. Furthermore, an overwhelming majority (85%) of the adults with children 6-17 believe that participation in sports or physical activity minimizes a child’s ability to get into trouble.

Attitude Toward Physical Activity and Physical Education

Nearly 8 of 10 parents (79%) feel that their own attitudes concerning physical activity in turn affect their children’s attitudes toward physical activity. A larger proportion of the relatively affluent parents surveyed (household income of $50,000 or more) agree (86%) that their own attitudes affect the children’s attitudes when it comes to physical activity; a smaller proportion of relatively non-affluent parents (household income under $25,000) agreed (67%).

Similarly, 8 in 10 parents (77%) feel that their own attitudes towards physical education in turn affect the attitudes of their children toward physical education.

Major Findings Concerning Teen Physical Activity

Getting Enough Physical Activity to Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle

A large majority of the 12- to 17-year-olds surveyed (84%) say they obtain enough daily physical activity to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Younger teens (those age 12-14) are more likely than older teens (those age 15-17) to say they get enough physical activity every day (88% vs. 81%). Among teens, males are more likely than females to say their daily physical activity is sufficient to maintain a healthy lifestyle (88% vs. 81%).

When asked what person could be most helpful to them in terms of becoming more physically active, few teens cite their doctors (4%), their teachers (5%), or celebrities (3%). Instead, the surveyed teens say that friends, parents, and professional athletes could help them increase their physical activity (56%, 18%, and 11%, respectively). Older teens are more likely than younger ones to think of friends as persons most helpful in increasing physical activity (60% for older teens vs. 51% among 12- to 14-year-olds).

Daily After-School Physical Activity of Teens

Slightly more than half of teens (59%) participate in organized team or club sports after school. Teens in the Northeast region participate in such afterschool programs at a rate of 70%, while teens in the South and West participate at a rate of 56% and 49%, respectively.

School-Based Physical Education

An overwhelming majority of teens (92%) feel they should receive some type of daily physical education at school. This opinion was expressed by younger teens (age 12-14) at a rate of 96% and by older teens (age 15-17) at a rate of 87%.

Of the surveyed teens, half (50%) say that they should have school-based physical education classes five days a week; only 3% of the teens feel that school-based physical education should take place one day a week. Teens in the Northeast region are much less likely than teens in other regions to state that they should receive physical education five days a week.

More than three quarters of all teens (78%) classify their school-based physical education experiences as very good or good. Younger teens (age 12-14) are more likely than older teens (age 15-17) to enjoy their physical education classes (85% vs. 71%).

Parents’ Attitudes Towards Physical Activity and Physical Education

Nearly 6 in 10 teenagers (56%) would say that their parents’ attitudes have no effect on their own feelings about physical activity; fewer teen girls than teen boys, however, see their feelings as separate from those of parents (48% vs. 63%).

In addition, a majority of teenagers (64%) say that their parents’ attitudes towards physical education have no effect on their own feelings. Again, fewer teen girls than teen boys (60% vs. 69%) say that their parents’ attitudes toward physical education have no bearing on their own attitudes.

Sports and Physical Activity to Stay Out of Trouble

A large majority of the teens (85%) express a belief that participation in a sport or other physical activity will help them stay out of trouble. The 12- to 14-year-olds are significantly more likely than the 15- to 17-year-olds to say participation can help them stay out of trouble (92% vs. 78%).

Non-Physical Activities

The average daily time spent watching television is 2.2 hr, according to the surveyed teens, with younger teens (age 12-14) watching significantly longer than older teens (age 15-17), 2.4 hr vs. 2.0 hr. Moreover, teen boys watch television for longer periods each day than teen girls do, an average 2.3 hr daily vs. an average 2.1 hr daily. Teens in the South region and North Central region say they watch significantly more television daily than their counterparts in the Northeast region. Daily averages are 2.5 hr in the South, 2.3 hr in the North Central, and 1.8 hr in the Northeast.

Most teens feel that their downtime, on an average day, is largely devoted to using a personal computer for Internet browsing, electronic chat, games, and/or research related to school. On average, the teens spend 1.9 hours daily in such pursuits. They report spending a further 1.9 hours per day, on average, using a PC to complete homework. Finally, they report spending only 1 hr on an average day playing video games.

How Adults’ and Teens’ Opinions About Physical Activity Compare

Getting Enough Physical Activity to Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle

Adults having children ages 6-17 in their households report that the oldest child participates in physical activity for at least 30 min on an average 4.9 days per week. Teens themselves (age 12-17) say that they participate in physical activity for at least 30 min on an average of 4.2 days per week.

On average, adults with children under 12 say that, in the past week, their child participated in physical activity for at least 30 min on 5.5 days. In comparison, adults with children ages 12-17 say that, in the past week, their child participated in physical activity for at least 30 min on an average 4.9 days.

In the North Central region, adults with children in their households say their children participated in at least 30 min of physical activity on 5.4 days per week, on average; in the West, that figure is also 5.4. In the North Central region, however, the figure is 5.1 days per week, on average, while in the South region it is 5.0.

About three quarters of all adults (76%) with children ages 6-17 in their households believe that their children are getting enough daily physical activity to maintain a healthy lifestyle. A slightly larger percentage of teens ages 12-17 (84%) feel that they are getting enough physical activity to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

How Much Physical Education Is Desired?

Adults with children ages 6-17 in their households report feeling that their children should participate in school-based physical education for an average 4.1 days per week. Teens ages 12-17 feel that an average of 3.8 days per week should be devoted to physical activity.

Appendix A

Article Prepared About the Survey by NASPE

New Physical Activity Opinion Survey Demonstrates Perceptions Do Not Meet Reality: Upcoming Healthy School Summit (Oct. 7, 8) Will Discuss Role of Schools

RESTON, VA, October 3, 2002 — How accurate is self-assessment? That’s the question the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) is asking itself after recently commissioning an opinion survey of adults and teenagers about their perceptions of physical activity and physical education. In spite of the U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Physical Activity and Health (1996) stating that 60% of adults are not getting enough physical activity, the majority of adults (88%) and teenagers (84%) participating in this survey reported that they are getting enough physical activity to maintain a healthy lifestyle. The recommended exercise for adolescents and adults is at least 30 minutes per day on most if not all days.

“It appears perceptions do not meet reality,” said NASPE President Kim Graber, Ph.D., of the University of Illinois, Urbana/Champaign. “The lack of physical activity among Americans of all ages is so critical, it is considered to be a major health risk factor. Yet nearly nine in 10 (88%) adults report getting 30 minutes of exercise at least once a week. They average 3.9 exercise sessions per week.

  • Teens ages 12-17 say that on average, they participate in physical activity for at least 30 minutes, 4.2 times per week.
  • Seventy-six percent of adults feel that their children also get enough physical activity.

“Clearly the physical activity community must find better and more creative ways to provide parents and teens with a better understanding about the amount and type of activity needed to maintain good health,” continued Dr. Graber.

The Healthy School Summit, scheduled for October 7 and 8 in Washington, DC, will examine the ways schools can be part of the solution for addressing poor diets and sedentary lifestyles. Citing a looming health crisis among the nation’s children, Mrs. Laura Bush, Dr. David Satcher and more than 30 national organizations, including NASPE, will develop national, state and local initiatives to create healthier school environments.

NASPE Executive Director Judith C. Young, Ph.D., questioned the participants’ recording of their screen time. “While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report teens watching more than five hours of television viewing per day, the adults and teenagers said they watched 2.2 hours of television per day and spent another two hours a day using a personal computer for Internet browsing, chat rooms, games, and school research,” said Dr. Young.

Teenagers admit to spending the “majority of their downtime” on a personal computer.

  • The majority of parents feel that television (42%) and computers or video games (41%) are the largest barriers to their child’s physical activity.
  • Lack of interest or motivation (29%), too much homework (28%), and lack of access to safe facilities (21%) are other reasons for inactive daily routines.

Perceived Benefits of Physical Education Nationwide

While only 51.7% of students are enrolled in a physical education class, the majority of adults (84%) with children ages 6-17 have a positive perception about their child’s physical education classes. Nearly three fourths believe that physical activity and physical education will support learning in other subject areas, such as math, reading or science. Adults also believe physical education makes children more alert/aware; focus better; increases energy; learns how to work with others, reduces stress and helps make the children healthier.

While nearly 79% of parents feel that their own attitudes towards physical activity and physical education affect their child’s attitude, more than half of teenagers say their parents’ attitudes are not important in influencing their attitudes toward physical activity (56%) and physical education (64%).

  • Teens selected friends (56%) as the best source to help them be more active, followed by parents (18%) and professional athletes (11%).
  • Few felt that teachers (5%), their doctors (4%) or celebrities (3%) would help them to be more active.

Adults feel their job performance is positively affected by being more fit because it gives them more energy, greater mental alertness, reduces stress and allows for better time management. Those adults who don’t think they’re getting enough physical activity most often say it’s because of:

  • their job (23%), not having enough time (18%), health problems (12%), or lack of interest or motivation (12%).

In addition, the majority of parents feel that participation in a sport or physical activity positively affects their child’s self-esteem. A large majority of teens (85%) join adults in believing that their participation in sports or physical activity will help them stay out of trouble.

The survey, which was conducted by Opinion Research Corporation International of Princeton, NJ, is based on interviews with a nationally representative sample of 1,021 adults (18 years of age and older, 50% male/50% female) and 500 teens, ages 12-17. The margin of error for the adult sample is + or – 3 percentage points; when broken into subgroups (those with children in the household) the margin of error is + or – 6 percentage points. The margin of error for the teen sample is + or – 4 percentage points. All interviewing was done from August 1-4, 2002.

Information about the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) can be found on the Internet at, the web site of the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation & Dance (AAHPERD). NASPE is the largest of AAHPERD’s six national associations. A nonprofit membership organization of over 18,000 professionals in the fitness and physical activity fields, NASPE is the only national association dedicated to strengthening basic knowledge about sport and physical education among professionals and the general public. Putting that knowledge into action in schools and communities across the nation is critical to improved academic performance, social reform and the health of individuals.

Author Note

This survey was funded with an unrestricted research grant from the National Soft Drink Association.

Marketing Sport and a City: The Case Of Athens 2004

The opportunity for a city to host the Olympic Games constitutes an enormous economic, social, and cultural commitment, as the Olympics are the world’s biggest sporting event. It is an opportunity that, if properly managed and marketed, will bring a number of positive long-term benefits to the rest of the country in which the city is located.

While the Games last only 2-3weeks, 10 years of preparation will have gone before to ensure both a successful bid and the smooth operation of the Games once the bid wins. The experience of cities that have hosted the Olympic Games demonstrates that, if they are carefully planned and promoted, the Games can generate significant growth over a long period. A primary factor in such growth is the increase in tourism that  a nation can continue to enjoy long after the Olympic Games have concluded. The aim of this paper is to examine the nature of the impact hosting the Games makes on tourism and to discuss marketing strategies that the city of Athens should follow in order to maximize the positive impact of tourism surrounding the 2004 Olympic Games.

From a tourism perspective, the Olympic Games can certainly be considered the most important sporting event. Frequently, organizers’ purpose in undertaking such events is to increase tourism in a city or country. In general, the benefits from organizing such events include the following:

  1. attracting high-income tourists and creating a new generation of tourists who might visit the host country repeatedly
  2. creating a favorable image of the host country as a tourism destination
  3. creating and/or modernizing a locale’s tourism infrastructure
  4. using the international media’s presence to communicate with the world
  5. creating a skilled workforce in the organization, management, and funding sectors specializing in unique, tourist-friendly sporting events

Properly managed, the Olympic Games can change a country’s tourism industry significantly and for the long term. Effects tend to fall within three categories, the Olympic market, the internal tourism market, and the international tourism market. The Olympic market consists of a network of economic activities that result from organization of the event and require significant investment of time and funding. Aspects of the Olympic market are marketing (mainly promotion and public relations), funding and donations, preparation of athletic and related facilities, tickets and other spectator services, transportation and accommodation (of athletes, spectators, dignitaries), and safety and emergency services. For every Olympiad, a workforce is formed to undertake these tasks, creating thousands of jobs and extensive activity in the host city. (Later in this paper, an attempt is made to estimate economic and non-economic effects of the Olympic market, based on previous studies.)

A large nation’s internal tourism market also experiences an impact when one of its cities is to host the Olympic Games. However, in Greece as opposed to the U.S. or even Australia, the internal tourism market is of less significance. In terms of both area and population, Greece is the smallest country chosen to host an Olympic Games. One might go so far as to refer to Greece itself as the “city” that has undertaken the responsibility of hosting the Games.

The right to host the Olympics brings with it long-term effects on the city and nation’s international tourism market, as well. Such effects begin to be felt immediately after a country has won a bid to host the Games and persist until several years after the closing ceremony. In the case of Athens, this period covers the years 1998 to 2011. International tourism will extend to three types of tourist: visitors traveling before the Games, spectators and other visitors during the Games, and visitors drawn to the country at some point by the Olympics-related publicity. The first category comprises, for Athens, persons who will visit Greece in preparation for the Games, such as the members of the Olympic family, media representatives, sponsoring organizations’ representatives, athletes, dignitaries, and some spectators. Such individuals also constitute the second category and can be expected to peak in number as the Olympic athletes compete. Finally, the third category includes all tourists from outside Greece who will visit Greece between 1998 and 2011 due to promotional efforts linked to the 2004 Games.

Games’ Direct Impact on Tourism

The direct impact of the Olympic Games on tourism is embodied in the arrival of all those directly involved in Olympic athletic events, as well as those participating in the associated cultural Olympiad; direct impact’s chronology is before and during the Games. Whatever the city hosting the Games, demands associated with direct impact remain similar and are based mainly on  the number of sports included (currently 28). While estimating direct impact involves some rather arbitrary decisions, the final overall result is not influenced, as it is of very small size. Moreover, a slight increase in the relevant figures was allowed to reflect visitors at the cultural Olympiad. Table 3 presents estimates of the numbers of tourists anticipated to be directly associated with the 2004 Athens Games during the period 1998-2003.

The tourist category of most importance is the before-Olympics visitors, who include numbers of representatives of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The IOC is contractually obligated to send representatives to Greece regularly to audit activities and check the progress of the Games’ organization. The second largest category of visitors includes members of international federations for various sports. They monitor the development of facilities in which competition will take place. The third category consists of athletes. As the date of the Games approaches, athletes begin to visit the country to become accustomed to the climate and sporting facilities. The final category is made up of sponsors and members of the media.

The total number of visitors expected in Greece during 1998-2004 on Olympic Games’ business will number 111,000. This figure constitutes a very small percentage of all tourists who will ultimately visit Greece as the result of the publicity about the country linked to the 2004 Games.

Consequences for Greece, for Athens

Again, the effect of the Olympic Games on tourism has relevance both for Athens and for Greece as a whole. Initially, forecasts of the numbers of tourists throughout Greece were made. These forecasts were then used to estimate the number of tourists to arrive in Athens, according to three national scenarios. The first national scenario is confined to those arrivals directly linked to the Games and assumes that the level of demand will be minimal. The second national scenario assumes a steady increase in demand leading up to the Games and stabilizing a few years after the Games. The third national scenario assumes a small increase in tourism before and during the Games, a large increase after the Games, and a small decrease several years after the Games.

The Olympic Games of 2004 will present a great opportunity for the rehabilitation of Athens and the Attica prefecture as a whole. Some infrastructure projects are already under way; together with Athens’ international promotions during the coming seven years, these projects may help Athens enhance the proportion of the Greek tourism industry it claims. Under a first city scenario, Athens will maintain, at the least, its share of all tourists arriving in Greece, which early in the 1980s was 40% but slipped to 16% in the mid 1990s.

Under the second city scenario, Athens’ share of the total number of tourists in Greece will increase significantly, attaining for the period 1998-2011 an average 22% of all tourists. During the 1990s, the proportion of tourists in Greece who were visiting Athens was as high as 22.3%, but averaged 18.22%.

According to a third scenario, Athens’ share in the numbers of foreign visitors to Greece should move from 18% in 1998 to 22% in 2004; after 2004, the city’s share should decrease, returning to the 18% figure in 2011.  Across the whole period, the average proportion of Greek tourism claimed by Athens is forecast to be 16.9%.

Each one of these scenarios for Athens is combined with the three scenarios for the whole country. Thus, the total number of possible outcomes for Attica comes to nine. The fluctuations of these effects are the same as the fluctuations relating to Greece as a whole. They are not presented here because the effects for the Attica area are estimated as a percentage of the whole. Under the first two scenarios, the percentage is assumed to follow a distribution moving from 18% to 22% and then returning to 18%.

Maximizing Benefits to Tourism Industry That May Surround the Games

The Olympic Games are a unique tourism-sport event presenting an outstanding opportunity to develop long-term gains for a nation’s tourism Industry. Supply and demand continue to figure in marketing, and in the case of Greece and the 2004 Olympics, it must be ensured that the tourism infrastructure can meet the demand for accommodation posed by extra thousands of tourists yet not overestimate the number of tourists who will visit Greece.

Figure 1 diagrams the approach to marketing the 2004 Games, one that involves three basic, interdependent elements. The first is supply, which includes organization of and preparation for the Games, the choice of the host city, all services that will be required , media (television, radio, and print), and grants offered by IOC and the host city. The second element of the marketing system comprises intermediaries between the supply and the demand. Often, these intermediaries participate in securing the successful bid for the Olympics, for instance by finding sponsors, working to attract spectators, and generally organizing the athletic events. The third element of the marketing system is demand, which includes all national athletic teams, all federations supporting the Olympic sports, spectators and tourists, the media audience (television viewers, radio listeners, and readers), and all official sponsors of the Games. The Los Angeles Games proved the importance of sponsorship to the presence of adequate funding.

How can Athens and Greece best tap into the elements of this framework to maximize publicity generated by the Games? When the Sydney Games come to an end, Athens and Greece could pursue a series of strategies, including the following:

1. Host athletic events during the period prior to the Games to allow Olympic athletes to experience the Greek climate. Events should be organized in various regions of Greece.

2. Host athletic events featuring non-Olympic sports, in cooperation with these sports’ international federations.

3. Host participative athletic events targeting those potential tourists who enjoy recreational athletics.

4. Before and after the Games, organize Olympics-related excursions highlighting the regions associated with athletics in ancient Greece.

5. Organize international cultural exhibitions and scientific and professional conferences offering an Olympics angle.

6. Supply the international media with information before and after the Games, using news broadcasts.

The forecasts presented earlier are based on the assumption the all of these strategies will be implemented to the fullest. The strategies, nevertheless, are only some of the strategies (activities and events) that could help Greece maximize benefits deriving from the Games. Other strategies should be developed to ensure the best management of the Games.


The Olympic Games in 2004 will have important economic effects on the host city Athens. Publicity surrounding the Olympics and the Olympic competitions themselves are expected to increase foreign tourism in Greece during 1998-201. New jobs will be created and the nation’s GDP will grow, very probably to the tune of 0.8% for annual growth from 1998 to 2011, which should increase employment by 32,000 annually.

The most important source of the increase in economic activity will be money spent by foreign tourists visiting both Athens and Greece as a result of Olympic exposure. The prediction of this study is that these such cash inflows will come to 2.3 trillion drachmas for the 14-year period 1998-2011, an average of 161 billion drachmas (1999 prices). According to the central scenario of this study, increased tourism due to the Olympic Games will come to 440,000 visitors annually for the period 1998-2011, or 6 million visitors in all.

Increased tourism will create additional need for accommodation. According to this study, such demand can be satisfied without additional investment in accommodation infrastructure, by improving existing accommodation units, especially across the Attica area. During the 2004 Games, peak demand in the Attica area will occur in August and is likely to amount to 1.9 million overnight stays during the 17 days of the Games. Existing hotel accommodations in the Attica area, along with use of temporary facilities such as camps, student dormitories, cruise ships, apartments, and private residences should provide accommodations for  2.6 million, more than adequate for the anticipated number of visitors.

While simply sheltering visitors to the Games is important, it is not enough. The supply of accommodations of various types must also be carefully managed. One conclusion of this study is that, although Greece may be able to cope with the unusual numbers of tourists arriving, this does not preclude problems while hosting them. To discourage any problems, government, organizing committee, and hotel management must work together from the time the Games in Sydney end. Especially critical will be the enhancement of the quality of Attica’s high-end hotels.

Long-term increases in demand for accommodation resulting from the 2004 Olympics is expected to be very small. At the end of the examined period, the supply of beds in Attica will amount to 100,000, while demand should be roughly the same, 103,000. The demand for beds across Greece will come to 858,000, while the supply will come to 834,000.


  1. Getz, D. (1997). Event management and event tourism. New York: Cognizant Communication.
  2. Getz, D. (1998). Trends, strategies, and issues in sport-event tourism. Sport Marketing Quarterly, 7(2), 8-13.
  3. Gibson, H. (1998). Sport tourism: A critical analysis of research. Sport Management Review, 1, 45-76.
  4. Holden, K., Peel, D. A., & Thompson, J. L. (1990). Economic forecasting: An introduction. Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England: Cambridge University Press.
  5. Ludwig, S., & Karabetsos, J. D. (1999). Objectives and evaluation processes utilised by sponsors of the 1996 Olympic Games. Sport Marketing Quarterly, 8(1), 11-20.
  6. Moore, J. (1999). Sydney 2000: Managing the Olympic story. Sport Marketing Quarterly, 8(1), 5-10.
  7. Sandler, D. M., & Shani, D. (1993). Sponsorship and the Olympic Games: The consumer perspective. Sport Marketing Quarterly, 2(3), 38-43.


Implementation of a Sport Management Major Within an Undergraduate Exercise and Sport Science Department


The purpose of this investigation was to develop an orderly process of implementing and establishing a sport management major within an undergraduate exercise and sport science department. This research examined and evaluated established, university-based, accredited undergraduate sport management programs within the United States. It was an empirical study of developmental occupational competencies and areas of curriculum content, in terms of the relative importance of their inclusion in a sport management major.

A survey instrument developed by the researcher was employed to rank 30 competencies factors and 30 curriculum factors that might be included in a sport management major. The instrument was developed using the literature, a panel of experts, and a pilot study in which Cronbach’s alpha coefficient was employed to test the validity and internal consistency reliability of the instrument. The survey instrument was e-mailed to the coordinators of 71 university-based, accredited undergraduate sport management programs. Although 50 program coordinators returned the instrument, 2 surveys were incomplete and could not be used; 48 of the 71 instruments distributed thus were utilized in the research (67.6% response rate).

The statistical analysis for this research included descriptive statistics to analyze the rankings of each of the competencies and curriculum content selections, as well as factor analysis to determine curriculum development based on these selections. The method of factor extraction used was the principal component method, and the method of rotation employed was the varimax rotation. Frequencies, percentages, means, mean rankings, and standard deviation were the descriptive statistics utilized. The factor analysis investigated areas within the competency and curriculum selections that demonstrated a high degree of correlation and thus could be identified as clusters.

The ranked order of the competency and curriculum selections, the results of the factor analysis, a review of literature, the compared responses of the sport management department coordinators, and the use of NASPE/NASSM Sport Management Program Review Council standards have all served as guidelines for the investigator’s development of a sport management major. The major has been designed to provide students with the educational background necessary to function effectively as professionals in a dynamic and multifaceted sport management setting, while meeting the needs of a contemporary sport industry.

Implementation of a Sport Management Major Within an Undergraduate Exercise and Sport Science Department

In decades past, many college and university physical education programs concerning professional preparation and career development placed an emphasis on coaching and teacher training curricula. But the area of physical education has expanded rapidly in recent years, with a resulting proliferation of dynamic physical education career possibilities. Demand for teachers and coaches is ongoing, but there is also a growing need for qualified sport professionals in the area of sport management.

Professional positions in sport require knowledge, skill, and ability beyond even what is represented by a degree in physical education. Many colleges and universities have established undergraduate and/or graduate sport management programs in an effort to provide the requisite knowledge, training, and field experience to students planning careers in the managerial and administrative portions of the sport industry. Other colleges and universities are just now choosing to implement such programs to keep pace with student interest in the sport industry. This study grew out of one institution’s decision to launch a sport management program, seeking to identify a sound process and method to implement the undergraduate  major field of study within its department of exercise and sport science.


Participants in the study included 48 out of 71 coordinators of established, university-based, accredited undergraduate sport management programs within the United States who were electronically sent a study questionnaire (return rate of 67.6%). The instrument completed and returned by the 48 sought to identify the competencies and curriculum content thought necessary for implementing and establishing a sport management major. The instrument, titled the Sport Management Questionnaire, was developed by the researcher through an identification of concepts and review of literature. A panel of experts assessed the development, reliability, and validity of this instrument, which asked respondents to rate how important each of a number of competencies and curriculum content areas was. The ratings were to reflect the participants’ expertise and experiences relating to their institutions’ undergraduate sport management programs. Ratings were assigned using a 5-point Likert scale (Leedy, 1997), with anchors ranging from 1 (not important) to 5 (critically important). The research involved 60 dependent variables, 30 reflecting competencies and 30 reflecting curriculum content. Statistical analysis performed during the research included (a) descriptive statistics concerning ranking of competencies and curriculum content; (b) factor analysis determining curriculum development based on competencies and curriculum content, and (c) reliability analysis testing the reliability of the instrument. Statistical significance was accepted at an alpha level.


Mean Range, Competency Items

Table 1 indicates the pattern of total mean ranges of competency items indicated by the program coordinators; the mean values were obtained for each of the 30 competencies items, from 48 respondents. The mean values ranged from a high of 4.79 (Item 2, communication skills) to a low of 2.21 (Item 9, designing fitness programs).

Table 1

Mean Range, Frequency, and Competency Items

Program Coordinators
Mean Range Competency Items Frequency
> 4.500 2, 11, 17, 23, 24
4.000 – 4.499 1, 10, 14, 16, 18, 20, 29, 30
3.500 – 3.999 3, 13, 15, 21, 22, 25, 27, 28
3.000 – 3.499 6, 12, 26
2.500 – 2.999 4, 5, 19
2.000 – 2.499 7, 8, 9
< 1.999 N/A

According to the participating program coordinators, the top five competencies that should be included in a sport management major are, in order,

  1. communication skills (Item 2) and making decisions (Item 23)
  2. organizing or managing time (Item 24)
  3. developing long- and short-range goals (Item 11)
  4. computer skills (Item 17)
  5. hiring and supervising staff or personnel (Item 18)

Mean Range, Curriculum Content Items

Table 2 presents the pattern of total mean ranges of curriculum content items indicated by the program coordinators; the mean values were obtained for each of the 30 curriculum content items, from the 48 respondents. The mean values ranged from a high of 4.71 (Item 17, sport and business management) to a low of 1.63 (Item 13, physical education curriculum).

Table 2

Mean Range, Frequency, and Curriculum Content Items

Program Coordinators
Mean Range Curriculum Content Items Frequency
> 4.500 10, 11, 17, 18, 27
4.000 – 4.499 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 12, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 26
3.500 – 3.999 9, 16, 24, 25
3.000 – 3.499 15, 28, 29, 30
2.500 – 2.999 6,
2.000 – 2.499 14,
< 1.999 1, 7, 13

According to the participating program coordinators, the top five curriculum content areas that should be included in a sport management major are, in order,

  1. sport and business management (Item 17)
  2. sport finance (Item 18)
  3. legal aspects of sport (Item 10)
  4. organizational behavior and management (Item 11)
  5. sport marketing and promotion (Item 27)

Factor Analysis, Competencies

Factor analysis performed with the data from the participating coordinators identified 5 clusters of competency items with 53.0% of the total variation. Titles were assigned to each of these 5 clusters of competency items, as follows (Table 3):

Table 3

Competencies Clusters and Variance Accounted for by Each

Cluster 1 Human Resource Management 12.60% of variance
Item 11 Developing Long- and Short-Range Goals
Item 14 Evaluating Job Performance of Personnel
Item 18 Hiring and Supervising Staff and Personnel
Item 22 Maintaining Personnel Records
Item 25 Organizing Students and Personnel
Item 29 Responding to Positive and Negative Feedback
Cluster 2 Leadership and Organization Management 11.35% of variance
Item 21 Knowledge of Sports
Item 23 Making Decisions
Item 24 Organizing and Managing Time
Item 28 Preparing Job Descriptions
Cluster 3 Marketing and Financial Management 10.55% of variance
Item 1 Budgeting
Item 2 Communication Skills
Item 6 Designing Advertisements
Item 16 Fund Raising
Cluster 4 Administrative Management 9.82% of variance
Item 3 Controlling Allocation of Resources
Item 19 Knowledge of First Aid and Safety Procedures
Item 30 Understanding Sport and Business Law
Cluster 5 Planning 8.47% of variance
Item 8 Designing Computer Programs
Item 9 Designing Fitness Programs
Item 12 Developing Personnel Training Programs

Factor Analysis, Curriculum Content

Factor analysis performed with the data from the participating coordinators identified 2 clusters of curriculum content items with 41.2% of the total variation. Titles were assigned to both clusters, as follows (Table 4):

Table 4

Curriculum Content Clusters and Variance Accounted for by Each

Cluster 1 Sport and Business Management 25.38% of variance
Item 2 Business Communication
Item 5 Consumer Behavior
Item 8 Human Resource Management
Item 9 Labor-Management Relations
Item 11 Organizational Behavior and Management
Item 12 Personnel Management
Item 17 Sport and Business Management
Item 18 Sport Finance
Item 19 Sport Economics
Item 21 Sport Ethics
Item 22 Sport Facilities Management
Item 23 Sport Fund Raising
Item 24 Sport Governance
Item 26 Sport Leadership
Cluster 2 Administration of Physical Education and Recreation 15.83% of variance
Item 1 Applied Physiology of Exercise
Item 6 Fitness Management
Item 7 Health Education and Health Science
Item 13 Physical Education Curriculum
Item 14 Recreation and Leisure Education
Item 28 Sport Philosophy
Item 29 Sport Travel and Tourism


The results of this research allowed the investigator to develop an orderly process for designing, implementing, and establishing an undergraduate sport management major within a university exercise and sport science department. The procedures employed in designing the process included the following:

  1. The 10 top-ranked curriculum content and competencies items were incorporated in the sport management major.
  2. The results of factor analysis were employed to identify clusters of factors to serve as areas of emphasis within the sport management major.
  3. Existing literature was evaluated and considered during the design process.
  4. Curriculum standards set by NASPE/NASSM in 2000 were adopted as the foundation of the sport management major.


Alsop, W. L., & Fuller, G. F. (2001). Directory of academic programs in sport management. Morgantown, WV: Fitness Information Technology.

Banks, A. L., & Wright, O. (2001). The top five employment opportunities in physical education higher education. Physical Educator, 58(3), 150-158.

Boucher, R. L. (1998). Toward achieving a focal point for sport management: A binocular perspective. Journal of Sport Management, 12(1), 76-85.

Cuneen, J., & Sidwell, M. J. (1998). Evaluating and selecting sport management undergraduate programs. Journal of College Admissions, 158, 6-13.

Kelley, D. R., Beitel, P. A., DeSensi, J. T., & Blanton, M. D. (1994). Undergraduate and graduate sport management curricular models: A perspective. Journal of Sport Management, 8(2), 93-101.

Lambert, T. (1999). Thorstein Veblen and the higher learning of sport management education. Journal of Economic Issues, 33 (14), 973-983.

Leedy, P. D. (1997). Practical research: Planning and design (6th ed). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

National Association of Sport and Physical Education, North American Society for Sport Management. (2000). Sport management program standards and review protocol. Reston, VA: Author.

Parkhouse, B. L., & Pitts, B. G. (2001). Definition, evolution, and curriculum. In B. L. Parkhouse (Ed.), The management of sport (pp. 2-14). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Pitts, B. G. (2001). Sport management at the millennium: A defining moment. Journal of Sport Management, 15(1), 1-9.

Steir, W. F. (2001). Sport management: The development of sport management perspectives. In D. Kluka & G. Schilling (Eds.), The business of sport (pp. 39-56). Oxford, Oxfordshire, England: Meyer & Meyer Sport.

Weese, J. W. (2002). Opportunities and headaches: Dichotomous perspectives on the current and future hiring realities in the sport management academy. Journal of Sport Management, 16(1), 1-17.

Author Note

Michael D. Kerr, D.S.M.

Better Distance-Swim Performance Through Complementary Cognitive Strategy?


Changes in cognitive strategies can improve performance and lessen perceived fatigue during distance activities (Padget & Hill, 1989). However, such changes may be difficult and annoying for participants (Masters & Lambert, 1989). This study identified 22 subjects’ preferred cognitive strategies and examined the effects of a complementary cognitive strategy. The participants performed an 800-m freestyle swim while being timed and assessed for heart rate. A week later, subjects read a behavioral instruction sheet (BIS), appropriate to the style exhibited during the first swim; they were then asked to swim again, following the guidelines on the BIS. Results showed that associative thinking was used more frequently than dissociative thinking, by 73%, t (21) = 6.68, p < .05. No significant differences were found between performance times in the first swim and the second swim, nor for rate of perceived exertion or heart rate, with the exception that, during the second swim, the participants reported more muscular fatigue t (16) = -2.17, p < .05. This study suggests that cognitive strategy training cannot be completely associative or completely dissociative.

Better Distance-Swim Performance Through Complementary Cognitive Strategy?

Various cognitive strategies for self-control have long been used to optimize endurance performance. In some instances, individuals using distracting forms of thinking can sustain performance longer, perceive less fatigue, and perform faster than individuals using strategies to focus on the task (Gill & Strom, 1985; Padget & Hill, 1989). Controversy exists, however, about the relative merits of various cognitive strategies (Masters & Lambert, 1989; Schomer, 1987). World-class marathoners tend to apply focusing techniques almost invariably during marathon races to maintain an accurate awareness of their bodily function, tension, discomfort, and pain  (Morgan, 1978). When they are training, however, runners tend to prefer a dissociative strategy (Pennebaker & Lightner, 1980).

A developing body of research supports the notion that some distance runners can mentally separate themselves from the pain and fatigue of marathon running. Morgan and Pollock (1977) suggested that two cognitive strategies are frequently used by runners: association and dissociation. They theorized that dissociation is more pleasurable, as it enables individuals to reduce “anxiety, effort sense and general discomfort” (Morgan, 1978, p. 46). It is also thought that dissociation strategies allow marathon runners to persevere through temporary zones of boredom (Schomer, 1986). However, Morgan and Pollock (1977) found that world-class marathoners tend to apply association techniques almost invariably during marathon races to maintain an accurate awareness of their bodily function, tension, discomfort, and pain  (Morgan, 1978). According to Morgan and Pollock, runners’ associative strategies may include (a) scanning their bodies to identify painful or tense areas, which cues them to attempt to lessen muscle tension through conscious relaxation and (b) thinking about their pace and race strategy (Morgan, 1978).

Rushall and Shewchuk (1989) examined the effects of thought content instructions on swimming performance. Using 3 types of thought instructions for training performances, swimmers completed 2 swims of 400 m each as well as 1 set of 8 swims of 100 m each. During the 100-m set, practicing strategies like positive thinking and mood word resulted in each swimmer demonstrating improved workout performance under at least 2 of the 3 conditions. Such findings about thought manipulations may be encouraging, but Weinberg, Smith, Jackson, and Gould (1984) suggest that some athletes have difficulty changing from one cognitive strategy to another (i.e., from dissociative to associative thinking and vice versa). In fact, some subjects found it bothersome to try to change existing cognitive strategies (Masters & Lambert, 1989; Weinberg, Smith, Jackson, & Gould, 1984).

While some studies have examined effects of both associative and dissociative cognitive strategies, few if any have identified participants’ current preferred cognitive strategy in order to measure the effect of a complementary strategy. The purpose of this study was twofold: to identify subjects’ preferred cognitive strategy during distance swimming and to examine the effect of using, as well, a cognitive strategy that is complementary to the preferred strategy.


A total of 22 participants (11 males, 11 females) from a university-based master’s swim club volunteered to swim, twice, an 800-m freestyle swim; the swims were completed 1 week apart. Subjects ranged in age from 19 to 45 years old (M = 27) and normally swam 500-12,500 m per week (M = 4,490 m). The 22 completed a pre-swim questionnaire soliciting general and demographic information (e.g., reasons for swimming distances, preferred cognitive patterns while swimming).

During both swims, the swimmers’ performances were timed using stopwatches accurate to 1/100th of a second. Timers were briefed on the proper procedures and were familiarized with the stopwatches prior to the study. Subjects were told that the swim was not a race and that they should swim their normal speed. Before each swim, the participants were fitted with a Vantage XL Sport Tester transmitter and receiver, which recorded time and heart rate every 15 s from start to finish of the swim. This modality has been used extensively to train and measure athletes (Daniels & Landers, 1981). The data from the transmitter and receiver were downloaded to a computer  via an interface unit, for processing.


To determine each swimmer’s preferred cognitive strategy, the Subjective Appraisal of Cognitive Thoughts, or SACT, was administered (Schomer, 1986). The SACT features 10 categories, each presenting descriptors related to either an associative or a dissociative cognitive attentional style. The 22 swimmers were asked to circle all descriptors that fit their usual experience while swimming. Based on the number of associative descriptors and dissociative descriptors circled, the participant was said to prefer one type of cognitive thinking or the other. Schomer established the reliability and validity of statements within the SACT by examining 109 recordings taken from marathoners 4 times per month. After transcribing runners’ personal conversations, Schomer inspected the scripts for “recurrent thoughts on task-related and task-unrelated material”; categories were proposed and rationalized based on a “pronounced attentional focus.” The reliability and validity of 10 subclassifications emerged.

(A pilot study of 20 swimmers had been conducted by the present investigators to examine the construct validity of the categories outlined by Schomer. The pilot study had suggested that swimmers had difficulty comprehending the subclassification titles, so the titles were rephrased while retaining Schomer’s descriptive content and examples within each subcategory, 1986.)

The 22 swimmers were also administered Pennebaker and Lightner’s Perceived Fatigue Questionnaire, or PFQ (1980). The PFQ measures change in the degree of fatigue perceived. It covers 10 physiological symptoms of fatigue (including dizziness, sore eyes, and headache) a participant may be experiencing; each symptom is rated with a slash marked by the participant on a number ranging from, for instance, 0 (not at all dizzy) to 100  (the worst feeling of dizziness ever). All scores are summed to provide a total-symptom index of fatigue. The scalar properties of the symptoms are found in Pennebaker and Skelton’s study (1978).

To quantify the 22 swimmers’ rate of perceived exertion (RPE), they were presented the instrument developed by Borg (1982), printed on a large cardboard shown to the swimmers following each swim. Borg’s RPE scale is a 15-point instrument ranging from 6 to 20, with several identifiers appearing at each odd-numbered response option, for example, 7 (very very light) and 19 (very very heavy). The RPE scale has been found to correlate linearly with heart rate, a positive relationship that suggests the scale’s appropriateness as a measure in this study.

Finally, following the second swim, swimmers identified as preferring associative cognitive strategies and those identified as preferring dissociative cognitive strategies alike were asked to evaluate the effectiveness of their strategies using a post-swim questionnaire. This questionnaire identified the extent to which the preferred strategy had been used during the swim.


After signing a consent form and being informed that confidentiality of the data would be maintained, the participants prepared for the first swim. Prior to entering the pool, they answered the short pre-swim questionnaire asking general and demographic questions. They were also cautioned that the swim was not a race. All swimmers wore a waterproof, wrist-mounted receiver and a transmitter around the chest, to measure heart rate.

A total of 8 swimmers (1 per lane) swam at any given time. Staggered starts (1 min apart) were used to lessen the effect of the motivating variable of competition against peers. Swimmers were thus able to use dissociative strategies during the first swim, if that was their desire. All swimmers stopped after swimming 800 m, signaled by a red flutterboard waved underwater as they approached the end of the pool. This signal was chosen to minimize potential distraction of swimmers not yet finished with the 800-m swim. Swimmers’ times were taken by individuals who had been trained by and were under the supervision of the researchers.

Upon finishing his or her first swim, a participant was asked to complete the RPE, PFQ, and SACT instruments. Responses on the SACT following the first swim were used to identify each swimmer as having either an associative or dissociative cognitive tendency. That identification was used to determine which behavior instruction sheet (BIS) should be provided to the swimmer one week later. Following the second timed swim, during which heart rate was again recorded, the participants were again measured with the SACT, PFQ, and RPE.


Generally, the participants in this study commented that they swam for fitness (65.6%) and relaxation (19.4%). The pre-swim questionnaire revealed each swimmer’s preference for a certain type of strategy, either associative (78.1%), dissociative (9.6%) or a mixture of both (12.3%). Following the first swim, results showed that swimmers preferred associative thinking by 73%, a significant difference from dissociative thinking, t (21) = 6.68, p < .05. Associative thinking was higher in the middle of a swim than near its end. This difference was found to be statistically significant, F (2, 24) = 3.87, p < .05. Several descriptors were offered in the Perceived Fatigue Questionnaire, but the participants in general commented about muscular fatigue more in the second swim, t (16) =  -2.17, p < .05. No significant statistical changes were found in subjects’ swimming time, RPE, or heart rate from the first to the second swim. Subjects rated the BIS to be easy to use (M = 71, on a 100-point scale), helpful (M = 69, 100-point scale), and effective (M = 63, 100-point scale). Use of the BIS also reduced boredom (M = 60) and pain (M = 51).

Table 1

Descriptors for Perceived Advantages of Behavioral Instruction Sheet, by Segment of Swim

Segment of swim Easy to use Helpful Effective Less boredom Less pain
First part of swim 80 60 60 40 0
Middle part of swim 60 80 80 40 80
Latter part of swim 40 80 80 60 80

Note. Scores are based on a 100-point scale.

The second swim, for which the participants used the BIS, was found easier than the first swim by 57% of the swimmers overall; 86% of the swimmers identified as associative found the second swim to be easier, while 14% of the dissociative group did so. The associative group generally commented that the second swim was faster; one swimmer said, for example, “There must be a mistake in timing. I found it much easier this time even though I took longer.” Second swims also felt more comfortable to the associative group, reflected for instance in the following comment: “Generally I felt better all around.”

Comments from the dissociative group similarly suggested that the second swim was more enjoyable. The BIS, one swimmer reported, “gave me other things to think about. I was not as mentally drained prior to the swim as I was in the first swim.” Every participant who reported more favorably on the first swim than the second was from the associative group. However, preference for the first swim was attributed by these swimmers to physical and mental factors, including a headache suffered by one swimmer during the second swim and exhaustion experienced by another in light of a workout completed before the second swim. One swimmer did note “feeling more relaxed” and less stressed during the first swim.

Discussion and Recommendations

The results of this study suggest that distance swimmers prefer associative thinking when swimming. Similar results have been obtained with marathon runners in studies of their performance while racing (Masters & Lambert, 1989; Morgan & Pollock, 1977). Elite distance runners were found to be mostly associative thinkers throughout important races. Their results encouraged researchers to consider the notion of “the better the associative thinking, the better the performance” (Schomer, 1987).

Yet in the present study, swimmers did not significantly improve their swimming times even after having read the BIS for an associative strategy. Swimmers’ strong preference for associative thinking was reflected mostly during the middle portion of the swim, not across the entire swim. In contrast to distance runners during important contests, these swimmers did not perceive their swim to be a race. Interestingly, a difference was found in muscular fatigue after the second swim, despite the fairly constant results obtained for performance time, RPE, and heart rate from first to second swim.

Three recommendations arise from this study, whose results differ from those of Rushall and Shewchuk’s research  (1989) finding that thought content instructions improved swimming workout performance under at least 2 of the 3 thought conditions. In future studies, the extent to which participants conform to the BIS should be examined. Furthermore, an 800-m swim may not have provided a great enough distance to induce dissociative cognitive strategy, especially in light of the participants’ accustomed weekly swim totals (M = 4,490 m). Finally, the 800-m swims may have been too familiar to the participants, who, then, would well know their pace and the approximate time required. In further research, perhaps time would constitute a better independent variable than distance.


Borg, G. (1982). Psychophysical bases of perceived exertion. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 14, 337-381.

Daniels, F. S., & Landers, D. M. (1981). Biofeedback and shooting performance: A test of deregulation and systems theory. Journal of Sport Psychology, 4, 271-282.

Gill, D. L., & Strom, E. H. (1985). The effect of attentional focus on performance of an endurance task. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 16, 217-223.

Koltyn, K. F., O’Connor, P. J., & Morgan, W. P. (1991). Perception of effort in female and male competitive swimmers. International Journal of Sports Medicine, 12, 427-429.

Masters, K. S., & Lambert, M. J. (1989). The relations between cognitive coping strategies, reasons for running, injury, and performance of marathon runners. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 11, 161-170.

Morgan, W. P. (1978, April). The mind of the marathoner. Psychology Today, pp. 38-40,43, 45-46, 49.

Morgan, W. P., Costill, D. L., Flynn, M. G., Raglin, J. S., & O’Connor, P. J. (1988). Mood disturbances following increased training in swimmers. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 20, 408-414.

Morgan, W. P., & Pollock, M. L. (1977). Psychologic characterization of the elite distance runner. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 301, 382-403.

Padgett, V. R., & Hill, A. K. (1989). Maximizing athletic performance in endurance events: A comparison of cognitive strategies. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 19(4), 331-340.

Pennebaker, J.A. & Lightner, J.M. (1980). Competition of Internal and External Information in an Exercise Setting. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 39, 165-174.

Pennebaker, J. A. & Skelton, J. (1978). Psychological parameters of physical symptoms. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 4, 524-530.

Rushall, B. S., & Shewchuk, M. L. (1989). Effects of thought content instructions on swimming performance. Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, 29, 327-334.

Sewell, D. F. (1996). Attention-focusing instructions and training times in competitive youth swimmers. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 83, 915-920.

Schomer, H. H. (1986). Mental strategy and the perception of effort of marathon runners. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 17, 41-59.

Schomer, H. H. (1987). Mental strategy training programme for marathon runners. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 18, 133-151.

Weinberg, R. S., Smith, S., Jackson, A., & Gould, A. (1984). Effect of association, dissociation and positive self-talk strategies on endurance performance. Canadian Journal of Applied Sports Science, 9(1), 25-32.

Author Note

R. T. Couture, J. Tihanyi, & M. St-Aubin

This study was supported by a grant from the Laurentian University Research Fund of Sudbury, Ontario, Canada.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Dr. Roger T. Couture, School of Human Kinetics, Laurentian University, Sudbury, Ontario, Canada P3E 2C6; telephone (705) 675- 1151, ext. 1023;
e-mail: Rcouture@NICKEL.LAURENTIAN.CA .


Pain Apperception Among Athletes Playing Contact and Noncontact Sports


Pain intensity and pain duration experienced by male and female athletes playing contact and noncontact sports were measured using the Pain Apperception Test, or PAT (Petrovich, 1957). The PAT consists of 25 line drawings grouped into three series: (a) situations of felt sensation of pain (n = 9); (b) anticipation of pain as opposed to felt sensation of pain (4 counterpart pairs); and (c) origin of pain, either self-inflicted or other-inflicted (4 counterpart pairs). Using a 7-point Likert-like scale, the athletes evaluated each PAT drawing as to the intensity and duration of pain. The drawings feature distinct facial and body characteristics that facilitated the athletes’ projection into the various pain situations portrayed. MANOVA indicated that there were statistically significant differences (.05 level) in pain apperception between (a) male and female athletes, (b) contact and noncontact athletes, and (c) athletes in various sports. Stepwise multiple discriminate function analysis (SMDFA) was used to test the dispersion of group centroids in the discriminate space and to identify the variables that contributed the most variance to the between-group differences. SMDFA’s classification procedures assign athletes to groups based on their pain apperception scores.

Pain Apperception Among Athletes Playing Contact and Noncontact Sports

Pain is often associated with the athletic experience (Addison, Kremer, & Bell, 1998; Cook & Koltyn, 2000). Contact-sport athletes are particularly prone to injuries that can cause acute and chronic pain (Anshel & Russell, 1994). Being able to “play hurt” is often cited as important for success in such sports as lacrosse, football, ice hockey, and wrestling. Authors Iso-Ahola and Hatfield (1986) contend that pain tolerance is the most critical differentiator between successful and unsuccessful athletes in endurance sports.

Despite the attention given to pain by coaches, trainers, and medical personnel, sport psychologists have not systematically studied pain perception/apperception and its far-reaching dimensions (Addison et al., 1998).

Evaluation of reactivity to pain has been approached from the neurological, physiological, cultural, and psychoanalytic points of view. According to Petrovich (1991), overreactions, underreactions, marked fluctuations in thresholds, and marked reactions in the absence of indentifiable stimulus are common. Pain researchers typically focus on sensory endings, nerve tracts, and stimulus intensities (see Cook & Koltyn, 2000). However, the present investigators believe that the study of pain reactions requires a dynamic reconceptualization to advance the evaluation of athletes’ conscious and unconscious attitudes, feelings, and motivations. A projective technique seems most appropriate for studying the psychological aspects of pain.

Apperception, in its original sense dating back to Leibniz (1646-1716), refers to a final, clear perception evidencing recognition, identification, or comprehension of what has been perceived (Reber, 1995). Wundt (1832-1920) used the term similarly to refer to the mental process of selecting and structuring internal experience: of, in other words, focusing attention within the field of consciousness (Reber, 1995). Over the years, however, according to U. Neisser (personal communication, April 16, 2001), apperception has not been used very often, coming to be replaced by the word perception. J. Cutting (personal communication, April 18, 2001) is in agreement with Neisser that apperception and perception are now synonymous. Therefore, our review of literature will focus on pain perception as opposed to pain apperception; pain apperception sport studies were not found.

]Physiological and Psychological Aspects of Pain[

Past and contemporary authors of sport psychology texts have given very little attention to the psychological aspects of pain. For example, Willis and Campbell (1992) indicate that pain is associated with dropout among exercise participants. Van Raalte and Brewer (1996) state that some athletes are using drugs to moderate pain caused by athletic injuries. They devote several pages to the management of pain. Anderson and Williams (1988) have developed a model of stress and athletic injury, but the role of pain is not clearly defined. Although authors such as Andersen (2000) and Weinberg and Gould (1999) do discuss injuries as well as emotions and implications related to injury treatment and recovery, they do not discuss muscle pain or exercise-induced analgesia (i.e., the mechanisms that underlie either muscle pain experienced during exercise or exercise-induced analgesia). Furthermore, they do not cover in much detail (if they cover at all) how the perception of pain or injury influences athletic performance (e.g., the influence on athletes of seeing a gymnast severely injured in a fall from the balance beam). Perhaps the lack of attention authors have given to the psychological aspects of pain results from the dearth of research literature on this important topic.

Conceptualization of Pain

In an attempt to conceptualize pain in sport environments, Addison, Kremer, and Bell (1998) developed an integrative model that stressed action, sensation, cognitive appraisal, and outcome. Drawing on gate control theory (Melzack & Wall, 1965) and the parallel processing model (Leventhal, 1993), the model that Addison and colleagues developed (1993) includes physiological sensation, primary and secondary appraisal, possible outcomes, and cognitive coping strategy. Addison and colleagues also recognized the important role of extrinsic factors (e.g., culture) and intrinsic factors (e.g., personality) in athletes’ pain perception. Focus groups were used to validate the model, and in general they supported its basic premises. The model represents an early attempt to systematize the complex processes involved when athletes experience and respond to pain. As the authors point out, it is anticipated that this model will undergo further elaboration, validation, and confirmation in years to come. Addison and colleagues (1998) also developed a six-factor sport pain taxonomy that includes fatigue/discomfort, positive training pain, negative training pain, negative warning pain, negative acute pain, and numbness.

Athletes’ Tolerance of Pain

During the past decade, there have been numerous investigations of pain in athletic environments. Prokop (2000), for example, summarized well when he stated that pain is a serious warning symptom that places a decisive limit on sports capability in general and on the high performance of the athlete in particular. Addison and colleagues (1998) developed an integrative model linking the physiological sensation of pain to a two-stage process of cognitive appraisal and a series of behavioral responses, mediated by extrinsic and intrinsic factors together with cognitive coping strategies.

Using a controversial pain assessment procedure, Ryan and Kovacic (1966) found that contact-sport athletes tolerated acute pain significantly longer than did noncontact-sport athletes. Both groups tolerated more acute pain than nonathletes. Of particular interest were the assessment procedures used to measure pain. Passing up earlier pain-measurement methods (e.g., cold, heat, noise, electric shock), Ryan and colleagues induced pain by securing a plastic gridiron cleat to an athlete’s leg midway between ankle and knee, using a sphygmomanometer cuff. Inflating the cuff at a slow, constant rate pressed the cleat against the tibia. Inflation continued until the participant indicated that the pain could no longer be endured.

Kress (1999) studied former Olympic cyclists’ cognitive strategies for coping with pain during performance. Using inductive content analysis, he uncovered several higher order themes associated with pain management: pain, preparation, mental skills, mind and body, optimism, control, and “house in order.” Physically and mentally prepared cyclists experienced less pain than their counterparts lacking such preparation. Kress concluded that degree of pain is purely a perception.

Sternberg and colleagues (1998) evaluated experimental pain sensitivity in 36 male and 33 female collegiate athletes  two days before a competition, immediately following that competition, and again two days after the competition. When compared to 20 matched nonathlete controls, the male and female athletes provided data showing that competition dramatically reduced the perception of noxious stimuli. The researchers concluded that competition induces both hyperanalgesic and analgesic states that are dependent on the body region tested and the pain assessment methodology.

Effect of Aerobic and Strength Training

The effect of aerobic and strength training on pain tolerance, pain appraisal, and mood of unfit males, as a function of upper and lower limb pain location, was studied by Anshel and Russell (1994). Unfit males (n = 48) were randomly assigned to one of four groups: aerobic training, strength training, combined aerobic and strength training, and the no training control group. The training regimens consisted of exercising at least 3 times per week for 12 weeks. Pain tolerance, pain appraisal, and mood were assessed before the treatment and after 6 weeks and 12 weeks. MANOVA indicated that the presence of aerobic training increased upper limb pain tolerance and improved vigor, while decreasing fatigue, tension, and depression. Strength training showed no influence on pain tolerance or positive mood state, although it increased depression. Lower limb pain tolerance was unaffected by the treatments.

Scott and Gijsbers (1981) studied pressure pain tolerance of elite (high aerobically conditioned) and nonelite (low aerobically conditioned) swimmers. They found that elite swimmers could tolerate more pain than both club swimmers and noncompetitive swimmers. Club swimmers, in turn, could endure more pain than noncompetitors.

Janal and colleagues (1994) studied stoicism among runners. They compared two independent samples of male regular runners (n = 52) and normally active controls (n = 42) in terms of cold-pressor, cutaneous heat, and tourniquet ischemic pain tests. Results demonstrated that the runners’ threshold for noxious cold was significantly higher than that of controls. The heart rate and blood pressure responses to cold were similar in the two groups. However, signal-detection-theory measures demonstrated that runners discriminated among noxious thermal stimuli significantly better than controls. The researchers concluded that the data did not generally support the hypothesis of stoicism in habitual runners.

Cognitive Appraisal, Cognitive Strategies

The use of cognitive strategies to increase pain tolerance has also been investigated. Spink (1988) found that a dissociative cognitive strategy resulted in marked pain reduction and improved swim time, in contrast to associative cognitive strategy or no-strategy condition. Gauron and Bowers (1986) found that cognitive strategies significantly reduced chronic pain of injured collegiate noncontact sport athletes.

Using pain pressure, Brewer, Van Raalte, and Linder (1990b) found support for the hypothesis that pain inhibits motor performance as a function of task complexity. They reasoned that pain induces a state of overarousal which, in turn, negatively affects performance of difficult tasks. The researchers linked their findings with the inverted-U relationship between arousal and performance.

The present study was designed to test the following hypotheses:

1. There will be significant difference in pain apperception of athletes who participate in contact sports and those who participate in noncontact sports.

2. There will be significant difference in pain apperception of men athletes and women athletes.

3. There will be significant difference in pain apperception of athletes who participate in different sports.

4. There will be significant difference in pain apperception of highly skilled, average skilled, and low-skilled athletes.



The volunteer participants (N = 108) were college-age men athletes (n = 83) and women athletes (n = 25) participating in the sports of football (n = 21), rugby (n = 16), men’s track and field (n = 28), women’s track and field (n = 13) , men’s lacrosse (n = 20), women’s softball (n = 1), and women’s soccer (n = 13 ). Mean age was 22.2 years for the men (SD = 3.87) and 18.5 years for the women (SD = 1.33).


This investigation was approved by the Life University IRB. Following the signing of informed consent forms, participants were asked to take the Pain Apperception Test (Petrovich, 1957, 1958a). The PAT consists of 25 TAT-like line drawings grouped into three series: (a) situations of felt pain sensations (n = 9), (b) anticipation of pain versus felt sensation of pain (4 counterpart pairs), and (c) origin of pain, either self-inflicted or other-inflicted (4 counterpart pairs). In all 25 pictures, a male in his middle 30s is shown experiencing or about to experience pain. Examples of these pictures include a man falling from a broken ladder and a man seated in a dentist’s chair about to have a tooth drilled. The pictures were selected based on a survey of undergraduate college students who were instructed to list 10 situations that they associated with pain. The drawings feature distinct facial and body characteristics that facilitated the participants’ projection into the various pain situations portrayed.

Measures of pain intensity and pain duration were obtained for each of the 25 pictures. For the intensity measure, participants were asked to indicate, on a 7-point Likert-like scale, how the man in the picture feels, from 1 (no pain) to 7 (can’t stand pain). For the duration measure, participants were asked, “How long will it hurt him?”; responses again comprised a 7-point scale, from 1 (not at all) to 7 (months). Normative data are reported for three groups: 50 male and 50 female hospital personnel, 100 male hospitalized veterans, and 100 male chronic schizophrenics. Split-half reliabilities for intensity scores range from .56 to .84, with median .70; and for duration scores range from .65 to .89, with median .84 (Spielberger, 1983). Reliabilities are not reported for total scores.

Instructions to participants were as follows:

This is a test of imagination. You will see a number of pictures, one at a time. Each picture has two questions, and each question has seven possible answers to consider. Imagine the feelings of the man in the picture and circle the best possible answer for each question (Petrovich, 1991, p. 21).

According to Petrovich (1957, 1958a), the PAT is a valid and reliable instrument suitable for the assessment and evaluation of psychological variables involved in the experience of pain. The PAT was originally constructed on the basis of logic and empirical findings from extensive research studies done in 1956-1957. Two major premises underlie the PAT. First, each person is predisposed to perceive pain in others in a characteristic and relatively constant manner, stemming from his or her personal, idiosyncratic experiences with, and reactions to, pain. Second, this characteristic perceptual response can be elicited using pictures of persons in pain which require a subject to judge intensity and duration of pain experienced by the persons depicted (Petrovich, 1991).

Results of studies using the PAT indicate intra-individual consistency in pain apperception, neuroticism, and manifest anxiety (Petrovich, 1958a, 1958b, 1958c, 1960a, 1960b). The ability of the PAT to differentiate between normals and disturbed persons was supported by Silverstein and Owens (1961). They found that retarded participants’ painfulness concepts differed quite significantly from those of normal persons, and suggested that strikingly low pain apperception threshold could reflect an emotionally immature pain reaction.

The coaches of the athletes (N = 6) were asked to rate each player as (a) highly skilled, (b) of average skill, or (c) low-skilled. These evaluations were used to determine if athletes of different skill levels differed as to pain apperception. Skill comparisons were made on the basis of the athletic conference in which the athletes participated.

The intraclass correlation (ICC) approach was used to determine the reliability of the PAT (Pain Apperception Test). ICC evaluates the level of agreement between raters in measurements, where the measurements are parametric or at least interval. It may be conceptualized as the ratio of between-groups variance to total variance. According to Portney and Watkins (1993), this method is better than ordinary correlation, as more than two raters can be included. Shrout and Fleiss (1979) also lent support for the use of intraclass correlation when they indicated that it is preferred when sample size is small (comprising fewer than 15). Eleven athletes were tested and retested with a 4-week interval between test administrations. Felt sensation intensity scores ranged from .78 to .86; felt sensation duration scores ranged from .75 to .85.


The purpose of this investigation was to determine if there were differences in pain apperception among (a) contact-sport and noncontact-sport athletes, (b) male and female athletes, (c) athletes who play different sports, and (d) athletes of low, medium, and high skill levels. To answer these questions, data were analyzed by means of descriptive and inferential statistical procedures. The primary research question was “What combination of dependent variables distinguishes these groups and which variables contribute the most to the between-group variances?” Therefore, MANOVA and stepwise multiple discriminate function analyses (SMDFA) were used to determine if there were significant differences (.05 level) in pain apperception between male and female athletes, contact and noncontact sport athletes, athletes who participate in different sports, and athletes of different skill levels. SMDFA’s classification procedures were used to assign athletes to groups based on their pain apperception scores. Cohen and Cohen (1983) lent credence to the use of SMDFA when they stated that it is a form of canonical analysis used when the dependent variable is categorical and is especially useful when the dependent variable has more than two categories.

Contact X Gender Pain Apperception

A 2 X 2 MANOVA (Gender X Contact) revealed a significant multivariate effect for gender, Wilks’s lambda = 0.73, F(10, 93) = 3:38, p < 0.001, eta squared = 0.267. Female athletes (n = 25) possessed lower pain apperception than male athletes (n = 83). Therefore, the hypothesis of significant difference in pain apperception between male athletes and female athletes was accepted. SMDFA revealed a significant multivariate effect for gender, Wilks’s lambda = 0.74, F(14, 91) = 2.26, p < 0.01. The variables self-inflicted-pain intensity, F(1, 106) = 14.82, p < 0.001, and self-inflicted-pain duration, F(1, 106) = 9.70, p < 0.001, contributed the most to between-groups differences in pain apperception. Females had lower pain apperception than males on these variables.

Based on their pain apperception scores, SMDFA’s classification procedures assigned 71.3% of the original grouped cases correctly to their respective groups; 71.0%of the males (n = 59) and 72.0% of the females (n = 24) were assigned correctly to their respective groups. Cross-validation procedures indicated that 69.4% of the grouped cases had been correctly classified.

Table 1 shows descriptive statistics for the collegiate athletes, in terms of contact/noncontact and contact/noncontact by gender. Note that the contact-sport athletes’ mean scores for pain apperception variables in all instances are lower than the scores of the noncontact-sport players. In addition, male contact-sport athletes have lower pain apperception scores than male noncontact-sport players. These generalizations are also true for 8 of 10 variables for female contact versus noncontact players. In general, the mean pain apperception scores for contact-sport athletes of either gender are lower than for noncontact-sport athletes.

Table 2 shows univariate F test values of pain apperception for male and female athletes. Statistically significant (.01 level) between-group differences were found for self-inflicted pain intensity, self-inflicted pain duration, and other-inflicted pain duration variables. Female athletes’ pain apperception scores were lower than those of male athletes.

Contact/Noncontact Pain Apperception

MANOVA revealed significant multivariate effect for pain apperception between contact-sport and noncontact-sport athletes, Wilks’s lambda = 0.80, F(10, 97) = 2.32, p < 0.017, eta squared = 0.23. Therefore, the hypothesis of significant difference in pain apperception was accepted. Contact-sport athletes (N = 49) had lower pain apperception than did noncontact-sport athletes (N = 59). SMDFA also revealed a significant between-group difference in pain apperception betweencontact-sport and noncontact-sport athletes, Wilks’s lambda = 0.89, F(1, 106) = 12.97, p < 0.001.

Using the first canonical discriminant function (self-inflicted-pain duration), the dispersion of the group centroids was tested using Wilks’s lambda, which may be interpreted as chi-square. This analysis revealed that the centroids were positioned in the discriminant space a significant distance from each other, Wilks’s lambda = 0.89, chi-square (1) = 12.18, p < 0.001.

SMDFA revealed that self-inflicted-pain duration accounted for the largest amount of between-group variance for contact-sport and noncontact-sport athletes, F(1, 106) = 12.97, p < 0.001, eta squared = 0.109. Other variables that distinguished contact-sport from noncontact-sport athletes were self-inflicted-pain intensity, F(1, 106) = 11.12, p < 0.001, eta squared = 0.095; other-Inflicted-pain intensity, F(1, 106) = 8.26, p < 0.01, eta squared = 0.072; and other-inflicted-pain duration, F(1, 106) = 9.96, p < 0.01, eta squared = 0.086.

SMDFA’s classification procedures assigned 62.0% of the original grouped cases correctly to their respective groups. Cross-validation procedures also indicated that 62.0% of the grouped cases were correctly classified, with 71% of the contact-sport athletes assigned correctly to a group and 67.8% of the noncontact-sport athlete assigned correctly to a group.

MANOVA also produced univariate F values of pain apperception for contact-sport athletes (n = 49) and noncontact sport athletes (n = 59) . Of the 10 dependent variables, 6 reached statistical significance at or beyond the .05 level. In terms of felt sensation pain duration, contact-sport athletes were significantly lower in pain apperception than noncontact-sport athletes, F(1, 106) = 4.56, p < .05, eta squared = 0.41. A significant difference between contact-sport athletes and noncontact-sport athletes was also found for anticipated duration of pain, F(1, 106) = 4.31, p < .05, eta squared = 0.039. Once again, contact-sport performers were lower in their apperception of pain duration than were noncontact-sport athletes. Self-inflicted-pain intensity apperceived by contact-sport athletes was significantly lower than that for noncontact-sport performers, F(1, 106) = 11.12, p < 0.001, eta squared = 0.095. A statistically significant difference in apperception of self-inflicted-pain duration was also found for contact-sport versus noncontact-sport players, F(1, 106) = 12.97, p < 0.001, eta squared = 0.109. Once again, contact-sport players were lower in apperception of self-inflicted-pain duration than were noncontact-sport athletes. Other-inflicted-pain intensity scores for contact-sport athletes were significantly lower than for noncontact-sport performers, F (1, 106) = 8.26, p < 0.01, eta squared = 0.072. Contact-sport athletes were also significantly lower in other-inflicted-pain duration than noncontact-sport athletes, F(1, 106) = 9.96, p < 0.01, eta squared = 0.086.

Gender/Sport Pain Apperception

A 2 X 5 MANOVA (Gender X Sport) revealed a significant multivariate effect for sport, Wilks’s lambda = .361, F (40, 354) = 2.74, p < 0.001, eta squared = 0.225. However, a significant difference was not found for gender, Wilks’s lambda = 0.91, F(10, 93) = 0.97, p > 0.47, eta squared = 0.095. Therefore, the hypothesis of significant differences in pain apperception among athletes in different sports was accepted. The hypothesis of significant differences in pain apperception among male and female athletes in different sports was rejected.

Univariate F-test comparisons of the 10 Pain Apperception Test variables for male athletes (n = 83) and female athletes (n = 25) produced three significant differences. Statistically significant differences (.01 level) were found for self-inflicted-pain intensity, F(1, 102) = 17.75, p < 0.001, eta squared = 0.148; for self-inflicted-pain duration, F(1, 102) = 8.74, p < 0.01, eta squared = 0.079; and for other-inflicted-pain duration, F(1, 102) = 5.68, p < 0.05, eta squared = 0.019. For these variables, female athletes had lower pain apperception scores than male athletes. Using these three variables, MANOVA produced an overall statistically significant difference between male and female athletes, Wilks’s lambda = 0.73, F(10, 93) = 3.38, p < 0.001, eta squared = 0.267.

SMDFA indicated that self-inflicted-pain intensity contributed the most to between-group differences, F(1, 103) = 8.53, p < 0.001]. Felt-sensation pain duration was the second variable in the stepwise procedures, F(2, 103) = 7.69, p < 0.001, that contributed the most to the between-group differences. No other variables reached statistical significance at or beyond the .05 level.

The SMDFA classification procedures indicated that 71.3% of the original grouped cases were correctly classified by their respective sports. Cross-validation procedures indicated that 69.4% of the cases were classified correctly. The correctly classified percentages by sport (with specified sport in parentheses) were as follows: 62.5% (rugby), 12.5% (track and field), 70% (lacrosse), 75.0% (soccer), and 23.8% (football). Of the original grouped cases, 42.6% of athletes were classified correctly. However, cross-validation procedures indicated that 38.9% of the grouped cases were correctly classified.

Table 3 shows descriptive statistics for pain apperception variables for male and female athletes in the sports of track and field, football, lacrosse, rugby, and soccer. Of the 10 comparisons, 7 variables were found to be statistically significant at or beyond the .05 level. Highly significant differences in pain apperception were found for the following:

1. felt sensation intensity, F(4, 102) = 2.79, p < .005, eta squared = 0.099

2. felt sensation duration, F(4, 102) = 3.36, p < 0.01, eta squared = 0.117

3. anticipated pain duration, F(4, 102) = 5.80, p < 0.001, eta squared = 0.185

4. felt sensation anticipated duration, F(4, 102) = 2.70, p < 0.05, eta squared 0.096

5. self-inflicted-pain intensity, F(4,102) = 8.21, p < 0.001, eta squared = 0.244

6. self-inflicted-pain duration, F(4, 102) = 3.43, p < .01, eta squared = 0.118

7. other-inflicted-pain duration, F (4, 102) = 2.56, p < 0.05, eta squared = 0.091

Where statistically significant, univariate, between-sport differences in pain apperception appeared, Bonferroni’s post hoc procedures were used to locate those differences. For felt sensation intensity, it was found that track and field athletes experienced higher apperception of pain than lacrosse and soccer players did. There were no significant differences in pain apperception between track and field athletes and rugby or football athletes. Bonferroni’s post hoc procedures also indicated that there were statistically significant differences in felt sensation duration among athletes who participated in track and field, rugby, and lacrosse, with rugby and lacrosse players scoring significantly lower for pain apperception than did track and field athletes. Significant differences in felt sensation duration were not found between track and field athletes and participants in thesoccer or football.

Statistically significant differences were not found among highly skilled athletes (n = 44), athletes of average skill (n = 42), and low-skilled athletes (n = 22) in terms of pain apperception, Wilks’s lambda = 0.779, F(20, 192) = 1.28, p > 0.200). Univariate F-test comparisons indicated that statistically significant differences in pain apperception were found for felt-sensation-pain duration, F(2, 105) = 3.44, p < .05, and anticipated duration, F(2, 105) = 3.72, p < .05.


In reviewing the literature, studies of pain apperception in athletes using projective techniques were not found. To date, pain research involving athletes has focused primarily on the use of such assessment procedures as anecdotal and clinical reports, cold-water pressor procedures, and paper-and-pencil tests (e.g., Pain Catastrophizing Scale, McGill Pain Questionnaire). In an early investigation, pain was assessed in athletes by strapping a football cleat to the tibia using a sphygmomanometer (blood pressure) cuff. The cuff was inflated until the athlete could no longer endure the pain.

One of the main purposes of the present study was to determine if there were differences in pain apperception between male and female athletes. MANOVA revealed that female athletes had significantly lower pain apperception than male athletes did. In terms both of self-inflicted-pain intensity and self-inflicted-pain duration, female athletes scored significantly lower than their male counterparts; females also scored significantly lower than males for duration of other-inflicted-pain, although not for intensity of other-inflicted pain.

Comparative data using projective techniques were not found, but Hall and Davies (1991) did report that the data about interaction of gender with experience of pain are contradictory and inconclusive. Using the cold-water pressor test, Hall and Davies’s research on gender differences in athletes’ and others’ perception of pain intensity and affect indicated that nonathletes report significantly higher pain intensity than male and female athletes. Hall and Davies concluded that the literature supports the premise that pain threshold does not vary between males and females, whereas pain tolerance is greater in males (Otto & Dougher, 1985; Petrie, 1960).

In an attempt to explain gender differences, Rosillo and Fogel (1973) suggest that men are culturally conditioned to associate pain tolerance with masculinity. In contrast, women are often culturally and socially conditioned to avoid pain. Although sport-related research on pain is scarce, within the context of athletic performance a different set of social learning factors may be operating (Iso-Ahola & Hatfield, 1986; Jarmenko, 1978). For example, Ryan and Kovacic (1966) reported that female athletes displayed higher tolerance for aversive stimuli (i.e., sphygmomanometer cuff pressure) than did female nonathletes and male nonathletes. However, in a more recent investigation using the cold-water pressor test, Sullivan and colleagues (2000) examined differences in pain perception bewteen varsity athletes and sedentary controls. They found that the athletes reported less pain than the sedentary individuals, with men reporting less pain than women. Regression analyses revealed that catastrophizing accounted for differences between men and women as to pain perception.

In terms of the present study, there are two plausible explanations for the difference in pain apperception bewteen male and female athletes. First, the lower pain apperception among female athletes may result from their relative inexperience with pain, compared to male athletes; it is possible that the women did not know how to respond to the line drawings showing a man in his middle 30s in painful situations. The second explanation is that females actually do have lower pain apperception than males.

Another important objective of this research was to determine if there were pain apperception differences between contact-sport and noncontact-sport athletes. MANOVA revealed a significant multivariate effect for pain apperception among contact-sport as opposed to noncontact-sport athletes, Wilks’s lambda = 0.80, F(10, 97) = 2.32, p < 0.017. Contact-sport athletes had lower pain apperception than noncontact-sport players. Although using a different assessment procedure, Ryan and Kovocic (1966) reported that contact-sport athletes tolerated acute pain significantly longer than nonathletes did. It is likely that the contact sport experience helps athletes manage pain and is thus an influential variable in differences in pain apperception among athletes.

The measurement of pain apperception in athletes in different sports was another important objective of this study. Rugby players and female soccer players scored lowest on four of the pain apperception variables. Among the five groups of athletes, rugby players scored lowest on anticipated pain intensity, anticipated pain duration, felt sensation anticipated intensity, and felt sensation anticipation duration. The female soccer players scored lowest among the five teams on self-inflicted-pain intensity, self-inflicted-pain duration, other-Inflicted-pain intensity, and other-inflicted-pain duration. Since rugby is a contact, or collision, sport in which no protective equipment is used, it is no surprise that rugby players in this study obtained low pain apperception scores (firsthand observation of a rugby game can be convincing, concerning the validity of this statement). However, it is intuitively surprising that female soccer athletes scored lower than male rugby athletes and male football players on 4 of the 10 pain apperception variables, since soccer is often thought of as a semicontact sport.

Our finding, furthermore, is not in agreement with Sullivan and colleagues (2000), who found that male athletes and sedentary males scored lower in pain than did female athletes and sedentary females. Studying pressure pain tolerance of elite (high aerobically conditioned) and nonelite (low aerobically conditioned) swimmers, Scott and Gijsbers (1981) furthermore, reported that elite swimmers tolerated more pain than either club swimmers or noncompetitive swimmers did. Janel and colleagues’ results (1994) are also in conflict with the present findings. The earlier work compared two independent samples, male regular runners and normally active controls, through cold-pressor, cutaneous heat, and tourniquet ischemic pain tests. The runners’ threshold for noxious cold was significantly higher than that of the controls. Differences in pain sensitivity have been due to the instruments used in the various studies.

Finally, it is apparent from the above analyses that the Pain Apperception Test is not a very useful instrument to measure pain apperception in athletes. It is unable, for example, to discriminate among athletes who were obviously very different in their ability to withstand pain (e.g., rugby players vs. soccer players). Test revisions are needed to make the PAT appropriate for athletes. Perhaps sport-specific pain apperception instruments would better allow athletes to relate to portrayed painful situations. Incorporating sport-specific injury within the 25 cards and using line drawings (and/or photographs) of men and women might enhance the validity, reliability, and objectivity of the test.

Author Note

William F. Straub, Scott B. Martin, David Z. Williams, and Alyson L. Ramsey

Appreciation is extended to the players who participated in this study. Appreciation is extended to graduate student Tim Meyers, University of North Texas for his assistance with data collection. Appreciation is expressed to Coaches Rick McGuire and Brian Maggard, University of Missouri; Coach Dave Carty, Fairleigh Dickinson University; Coach John Hedlund, North Texas State University and Coach Mike Spino, Life University. Appreciation is extended to Professors Ulric Neisser and James Cutting, Cornell University, Department of Psychology, for their comments regarding the difference between apperception and perception.


Addison, T., Kremer, J., & Bell, R. (1998). Understanding the psychology of pain in sport. Irish Journal of Psychology, 19(4). 486-503.

Andersen, M. B. (Ed.)(2000). Doing sport psychology. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Andersen, M. B., & Williams, J. M. (1988). A model of stress and athletic injury: Prediction and prevention. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 10, 294 – 306.

Anshel, M. H., & Russell, K. G. (1994). Effect of aerobic and strength training on pain tolerance, pain appraisal and mood of unfit males as a function of pain location. Journal of Sports Sciences, 12, 535-547.

Bartholomew, J. B., Brewer, B., Linder, D. E., Cornelius, A., & Bart, S. M. (1998). A psychometric evaluation of the Sports Inventory for Pain. The Sport Psychologist, 12, 29-39.

Brewer, B. W., Karoly, P., Linder, D. E., & Landers, D. M. (1990a). Validation of a procedure to induce pain of varied intensities. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 61, 268-271.

Brewer, B. W., Van Raalte, J. L., & Linder, D. E. (1990b). Effects of pain on motor performance. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 12, 353-365.

Cohen, J., & Cohen, P. (1983). Applied multiple regression and correlational analysis for the behavioral sciences (2nd ed.). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Cook, D. B., & Koltyn, K. F. (2000). Pain and exercise. International Journal of  Sport Psychology, 31, 256-277.

Gauron, E. F., & Bowers, W. A. (1986). Pain control techniques in college-age athletes. Psychological Reports, 59, 1163-1169.

Hall, E. G., & Davies, S. (1991). Gender differences in perceived intensity and affect of pain between athletes and nonathletes. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 73, 779 – 786.

Heyneman, N. E., Fremouw, W. F., Gano, D., & Kirkland, F. (1990). Individual differences and the effectiveness of different coping strategies for pain. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 14, 63-77.

Iso-Ahola, S. E., & Hatfield, B. (1986). Psychology of sports: A social psychological approach. Dubuque, IA: Brown.

Janal, M. N., Glusman, M., Kuhl, J. P., & Clark, W. C. (1994). Are runners stoical? An examination of pain sensitivity in habitual runners and normal active controls. Pain, 58(1), 109-116.

Jarmenko, M. E. (1978). Cognitive strategies in pain tolerance. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 9, 239.

Kress, J. L. (1999). A naturalistic investigation of former Olympic cyclists’ cognitive strategies for coping with exertion pain during performance. Dissertation Abstracts International (B), 59(9), 4763.

Leventhal, H. (1993). The pain system: A multilevel model for the study of motivation and emotion. Motivation and Emotion, 17, 139-146.

Melzack, R., & Wall, P. D. (1965). Pain mechanisms: A new theory. Science, 50, 971-979.

Otto, M. W., & Dougher, M. J. (1985). Sex differences and personality factors in response to pain. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 61, 383-390.

Petrie, A. (1960). Some psychological aspects of pain and the relief of suffering. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 86, 13.

Petrovich, D. V. (1957). The pain apperception test: A preliminary report. Journal of Psychology, 44, 118-122.

Petrovich, D. V. (1958b). A survey of painfulness concepts. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 14, 288-291.

Petrovich, D. V. (1958c). The Pain Apperception Test: An application to sex differences. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 15, 412-414.

Petrovich, D. V. (1958a). The Pain Apperception Test: Psychological correlates of pain perception. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 14, 367-374.

Petrovich, D. V. (1960a). Pain apperception in chronic schizophrenics. Journal of Projective Techniques, 25, 352-355.

Petrovich, D. V. (1960b). The apperceptive study of psychological aspects of pain. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 11, 57.

Petrovich, D. V. (1991). Pain Apperception Test manual. San Diego, CA: Western Psychological Services.

Portney, L. G., & Watkins, M. P. (1993). Foundations of clinical research: Applications and practice. Norwalk, CT: Appleton & Lange.

Prokop, L. (2000). The significance of pain in sport. Kinesiology, 32(1), 77-84.

Reber, A. S. (Ed.). (1995). The Penguin dictionary of psychology. New York: Penguin.

Rosillo, R. H., & Fogel, M. L. (1973). Pain, affect, and progress in physical rehabilitation. Journal of Psychosomatic Research 17, 21-28.

Ryan, E. D., & Kovacic, C. R. (1966). Pain tolerance and athletic participation. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 22, 383-390.

Scott, V., & Gijsbers, K. (1981). Pain perception in competitive swimmers. British Medical Journal, 283, 91-93.

Shrout, P. E., & Fleiss, J. L. (1979). Intraclass correlation: Uses in assessing rater reliability. Psychological Bulletin, 86, 420-428.

Silverstein, A. B., & Owens, E. P. (1961). Pain apperception in the mentally retarded. Journal of Projective Techniques, 25, 352-355.

Spielberger, C. D. (1978). [Review of the Pain Apperception Test.] In O. K. Buros (ed.), The eighth mental measurements yearbook (pp. 638-640). Lincoln, NE: Buros Institute of Mental Measurements.

Spink, K. S. (1988). Facilitating endurance performance: The effect of cognitive strategies and analgesic suggestions. The Sport Psychologist, 2, 97-104.

Sternberg, W. G., Bailin, D., Grant, M., & Gracely, R. H. (1998). Competition alters the perception of noxious stimuli in male and female athletes. Pain, 76(1-2), 231-238.

Sullivan, M. J. L., Tripp, D. A., Rogers, W. M., & Stanish, W. (2000). Catastrophizing and pain perception in sport participants. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 12(2), 151-167.

Van Raalte, J. L., & Brewer, B. W. (Eds.)(1996). Exploring sport and exercise psychology. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Weinberg, R. S., & Gould, D. (1995). Foundations of sport and exercise psychology. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Willis, J. D., & Campbell, L. R. (1992). Exercise psychology. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.