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Sports Physio

By Cathy Arnot USOC Physiotherapist

Just A Few More Reasons Not To Get Angry After A Bad Shot

Presumably all athletes

have elevated stress dur- ing a competition. This is unavoidable and may help sharpen mental acuity at low levels. However, emo- tional swings can have del- eterious effects on perfor- mance. It must be tempting to get angry after making a bad shot, especially when \RX ZHUH FRQÀ GHQW RI D JRRG outcome. There are several problems with getting angry and staying angry during your competition.

1. Breathing disturbances When experiencing a

heightened emotional state, most people do not fully ex- hale. This can lead to a mild state of hyperventilation.

2. Changes in blood gases If you

maintain this

breathing pattern, it can result

in hypocapnia — a

GHÀ FLHQF\ RI FDUERQ GLR[ ide. This causes cerebral vasoconstriction and hypoxia. What you will experience is transient dizziness, visual disturbances and increased levels of anxiety.

3. Constant sympa- thetic state Your sympathetic

nervous system is de- signed to protect you dur- ing emergency situations. When you get stressed, this

March 2016 | USA Shooting News 49

system is activated. Your body then produces two stress hormones: adren- alin and cortisol. These hormones increase anxi- ety levels, heart rate, blood pressure, respiration rate and your resting muscle tone. Another effect of cor- tisol is that it reduces your pain threshold. In other words, any ache or pain that you could usually ignore will feel worse under these con- ditions.

4. Changes to muscles Certain muscles are

particularly affected by the sympathetic response. The muscles on the front of your neck, the scalenes and ster- nocleidomas- toid, be-

come hyperactive because they are helping you inhale. The result is that the front of your neck will feel tight and you will have decreased range of motion. The upper trapezius and levator scap- ula will also contract. These are the muscles along the top of your shoulder that connect to your neck. When these muscles contract, it can change your usual shooting position and cause you to misjudge a shot.

Bottom line Maintaining an elevat-

ed emotional state after a bad shot can lead to visual disturbances, decreased steadiness,


mu scle tone,

and decreased range of mo- tion and greater levels of perceived pain. Over time, this can lead to shoulder pain, neck pain and chronic headaches.

Ways to manage Maybe the most impor-

tant step is to have a mental strategy for dealing with a bad shot. Talk to your coach and sport psychologist prior to competition so that you can practice these strate- gies. One physical strategy that is easy to employ is to change your breathing. Inhale through your nose and then forcefully exhale through your mouth. This stops the cascade of physi- ological events that lead to the sympathetic state. An- other technique is to relax your upper traps by force- fully depressing your shoul- ders for 5 seconds and then relaxing.

So not only is it impor- tant to keep your cool while shooting for your mental health, it’s important to help you perform at your best physically as well.

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