Sport psychologists are increasingly confronted with performance problems in sport where athletes suddenly lose the ability to execute automatic movements (Rotheram, Maynard, Thomas, Bawden, & Francis, 2012). Described as performance blocks (Bennett, Hays, Lindsay, Olusoga, & Maynard, 2015), these problems manifest as locked, stuck, and frozen movements and are underpinned by an aggressive anxiety component. This research used both qualitative and quantitative methods in a single case study design to investigate the effectiveness of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy with graded exposure as a treatment method. The participant was a 58-year-old professional male golfer who had been suffering a performance block for 11 years. Specifically, the participant was experiencing involuntary spasms, shaking, muscle tension, and jerking in the lower left forearm while executing a putting stroke. Physical symptoms were coupled with extreme anxiety, panic, and frustration. The study tested the hypothesis that reprocessing related significant life events and attending to dysfunctional emotional symptoms would eliminate the performance block and related symptoms and that the individual would regain his ability to execute the affected skill. Pre-, mid-, and postintervention performance success, using the Impact of Event scale, subjective units of distress (SUD; Wolpe, 1973), and kinematic testing revealed improvements in all associated symptoms in training and competition. These findings suggest that previous life experiences might be associated with the onset of performance blocks and that EMDR with graded exposure might offer an effective treatment method.
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Bennett, J., Bickley, J., Vernon, T., Olusoga, P., & Maynard, I. (2017). Preliminary Evidence for the Treatment of Performance Blocks in Sport: The Efficacy of EMDR With Graded Exposure. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, 11(2), 96–110. https://doi.org/10.1891/1933-3126.96.36.199
Journal of EMDR Practice and Research