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Acute pulmonary disorders are commonplace within the athletic population, with exercise-induced bronchoconstriction and vocal cord dysfunction (VCD) common diagnoses. VCD is a condition that causes the vocal folds to close during inhalation, causing obstruction at the larynx and thereby a severely-impaired sporting performance. VCD can be brought on by laryngeal irritants, emotional and psychological stress, and asthma. The present case study details the interdisciplinary approach to the treatment of an elite female swimmer with VCD with an intervention program that lasted 9 weeks, instigated by a local general practitioner who chose to engage a sport psychology practitioner due to the sport-specific nature of the psychological stress she experienced. The steps involved in the design of the sport psychology interventions are outlined and the relationship of those interventions to the work of the other specialists is discussed. The 9-week intervention program was aimed at reducing the swimmer’s levels of precompetitive state anxiety and perfectionist tendencies using a combination of goal-setting, imagery, and cognitive restructuring. During the course of 9 weeks, the athlete’s levels of competitive state anxiety and perfectionist tendencies reduced, along with the frequency of VCD occurrence.
Claire-Marie Roberts is with the Department of Health and Social Sciences, Faculty of Health & Applied Sciences, University of the West of England, Bristol, United Kingdom.