Monday, 3 June 2013

The A - Z of Sports Vision - Music

In 2008, the US Track and Field (USATF) banned headphones and other music-playing devices at all USATF-sanctioned running events. This was for safety reasons, because athletes wearing headphones might not hear instructions from officials, other athletes trying to overtake them, or even road traffic in some cases. Many other organisers have since followed suit, but some athletes say they would rather not race than be without their MP3 players. That’s because music can aid sporting performance in a number of ways. Firstly, music can divert the mind from feelings of fatigue. For instance, Karageorghis & Terry (1999) found a 10% reduction in perceived exertion during running on a treadmill. This only works if the exercise isn’t too vigorous. But even then, although there’s no reduction in the perceived effort, the runner is still likely to find it a more pleasurable experience compared with no music. In 2009, a study of female basketball players in Australia found players who had a tendency to choke were significantly more accurate in free-throw shooting during high pressure situations if they first listened to “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” from “Life of Brian”. It seems that the music distracted them from thinking about the mechanics of their throw. Music can also be used to get the athlete into their preferred mental state before a completion. Although for some this might be something upbeat to get the adrenaline flowing, others use it to stay relaxed. For instance Dame Kelly Holmes used the soulful ballads of Alicia Keys in her pre-event routine at the Athens Olympics in 2004. Karageorghis & Lee (2001) found that a combination of music and imagery enabled participants to hold on to weights for longer when compared with music or imagery alone or neither. Performing at the same tempo as the music has been found to be advantageous in a number of sports. Bacon, Myers & Karageorghis (2008) found that cyclists required 7% less oxygen to do the same work when they cycled in time to music compared with when they just listened to background music that was asynchronous (not at the same tempo). In February 1998, Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia smashed the indoor world record for 2,000 metres while listening to the rhythmical pop song “Scatman”, which was played over loud speakers. Music can also be used to enhance young athletes’ motor skills. For example, “Push It” by Salt-n-Pepa helps athletes hone shot-putt technique. The lyric reinforces the need for athletes to putt (i.e. push) the shot rather than trying to throw it, the most common technical error. Finally, music can help athletes get “in the zone” (also known as “flow”). Pates, Karageorghis, Fryer & Maynard (2003) looked at the effect of pre-task music on the performance of three college netball players. Two reported an increase in their perception of flow, and all three showed considerable improvement in shooting performance. David Donner