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Brain sciences emerge in conversations about elite sport



The 2024 Global Year will examine what is known about sex and gender differences in pain perception and modulation and address sex-and gender-related disparities in both the research and treatment of pain.

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We were chuffed and impressed to see the slideshow about amputees learning impossible movements on Mike Nelson’s extreme human performance blog. We agree that our study has implications for elite sport and human performance, particularly when one considers that elite athletes are asking the absolute most of their brain as well as their body.  Actually, there are other things that we have been doing that were developed in response to observing problems in patients with chronic painful disease that are also relevant. For example, another hat that I (Lorimer) have is as a consultant to some high performance sports programs.

Athletes also suffer from chronic painful disorders that compromise their ability to perform. They often have every intervention one could think of if one was to confine oneself to interventions based on Renet Descartes’ idea of pain. We have taken an alternative approach in some of these conditions, an approach that interrogates and then treats problems with brain representation of the body and contextual influences on pain and motor control – ‘Training the Brain’. We are in phase one of this pursuit, which means we are well short of undertaking clinical trials, which means, there is no strong evidence for us to determine efficacy. However, my impression is that it is very promising. I encourage all of you clinicians and athletes to keep an open mind as to the role and potential therapeutic target of the brain in human performance and performance-related disorders, perhaps wrongly categorised as ‘musculoskeletal’. Finally, congrats Mike Nelson on a great blog post.

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