Although it is commonly believed that focusing too much attention on the injured body area impairs recovery in sports, this has not been directly assessed. The present study investigated attentional focus following sports injury. Experienced baseball position players recovering from knee surgery (Expt 1) and baseball pitchers recovering from elbow surgery (Expt 2) performed simulated batting and pitching respectively. They also performed three different secondary tasks: leg angle judgments, arm angle judgments, and judgments about the ball leaving their bat/hand. Injured athletes were compared with expert and novice control groups. Performance on the secondary tasks indicated that the injured batters had an internal focus of attention localized on the area of the injury resulting in significantly poorer batting performance as compared with the expert controls. Injured pitchers had a diffuse, internal attentional focus similar to that of novices resulting in poorer pitching performance as compared with the expert controls.
Rob Gray is with Human Systems Engineering, Arizona State University, Mesa, AZ.