Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Integrated Article

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Program

Kinesiology

Supervisor

Hall, Craig

Abstract

The general purpose of this dissertation was to examine the effects of biofeedback training on sport performance. This dissertation was divided into three studies. Study 1 qualitatively explored athletes’ perspectives of biofeedback post-intervention. Five varsity athletes were provided with a five-session biofeedback intervention training respiration rate, heart rate variability, and skin conductance. Following the intervention, an interview was conducted. Athletes perceived biofeedback to enhance self-regulation skills both in sport and academics, contributing to perceptions of superior performance.

To further examine perspectives of biofeedback training, Study 2 qualitatively explored mental performance consultants’ use of biofeedback and their perceptions of the tool. Ten experienced mental performance consultants were interviewed. Consultants indicated that biofeedback can provide athletes with the self-awareness and self-regulation skills intended for optimal performance, but that there are limiting factors to the biofeedback device (e.g., high cost, time constraint, limited education and training).

Once perceptions were attained, a biofeedback intervention was designed to investigate the practice effect of biofeedback and to determine if sessions could be optimized with the integration of imagery (i.e., Study 3). 27 varsity athletes were assigned to one of three groups (biofeedback, imagery, comparison). The biofeedback group participated in five, 15-minute biofeedback training sessions. The imagery group participated in five, 10-minute biofeedback training sessions and each session was interspersed with an imagery script. The comparison group participated in five, 10-minute biofeedback training sessions and each session was interspersed with a rest period. There was a significant Group x Time interaction (p< .05), indicating differences in respiration rate, heart rate variability, and skin conductance across groups over time. Specifically, it was found that athletes who take rest periods between biofeedback training can regain resonance frequency and physiological control once biofeedback resumes. Therefore, it may be worth interspersing biofeedback with imagery to enhance the quality of the session.

Overall, this dissertation supported the use of biofeedback to enhance sport performance in high performance varsity athletes. From a practical standpoint, mental performance consultants and/or sport psychologists who offer biofeedback may optimize delivery and performance outcomes by including imagery to generate the management of both psychological and physiological processes.

Summary for Lay Audience

The general purpose of this dissertation was to examine the effects of biofeedback training on sport performance. Biofeedback is a technique that provides psychophysiological assessments in real-time to enhance awareness of thoughts and emotions. The application of biofeedback in the sport context has been widely recognized as a technique for enhancing athletic performance. This dissertation was divided into three studies. Study 1 gave athletes a voice by qualitatively exploring their perspectives of biofeedback post-intervention. Five varsity athletes were provided with a five-session biofeedback intervention. Following the intervention, an interview was conducted. Athletes perceived biofeedback to enhance self-regulation skills both in sport and academics, contributing to perceptions of superior performance.

To further examine perspectives of biofeedback training, Study 2 qualitatively explored mental performance consultants’ use of biofeedback and their perceptions of the tool. Ten experienced mental performance consultants were interviewed. Consultants indicated that biofeedback can provide athletes with the self-awareness and self-regulation skills intended for optimal performance, but that there are limiting factors to the biofeedback device (e.g., high cost, time constraint, limited education and training).

Once perceptions were attained, a biofeedback intervention was designed to investigate the practice effect of biofeedback and to determine if sessions could be optimized with the integration of imagery (i.e., Study 3). 27 varsity athletes were assigned to one of three groups (biofeedback, imagery, comparison). The biofeedback group participated in five, 15-minute biofeedback training sessions. The imagery group participated in five, 10-minute biofeedback training sessions and each session was interspersed with an imagery script. The comparison group participated in five, 10-minute biofeedback training sessions and each session was interspersed with a rest period. It was found that athletes who take rest periods between biofeedback training can quickly gain control over their bodily functions once biofeedback resumes. Therefore, it may be worth interspersing biofeedback with imagery to enhance the quality of the session.

Overall, this dissertation supported the use of biofeedback to enhance sport performance in high performance varsity athletes.

Available for download on Friday, January 01, 2021

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