Football Players – Hyperarousal

Strategies to help football players find ways to contain hyper-arousal on and off the field!

Football is one of the biggest American pastimes! It is a physical and aggressive game. Players wear helmets and all kinds of pads and are still bound to get broken bones, dislocated shoulders and concussions. Despite the fact that the chances of going pro are slim to nil, a truly dedicated football player is not deterred by the aggressive nature of the game.

Football demands a lot of adrenaline. Players are pumped up to push, run, and tackle opponents. Aggressive behavior and hard hits are encouraged and applauded by coaches, teammates and spectators. The challenge for football players is that the longer they remain in this sport, the more difficult it is to turn off the switch of their hyperarousal state of mind. The arousal shown on the field is then displayed on the sidelines as they feel the oomph to return back to “battle.” What first started as a display of roughness on the field, it later continued as hyperarousal on the sidelines, to then becoming a daily state of being. It may not necessarily show on the outside, but players become emotional time-bombs in the inside. The challenge is how to find ways to calm that pumped up energy down.

The human nervous system is set up so it constantly seeks to remain in equilibrium. An arousing experience will be followed by a calming response. However, the longer it remains aroused, the more difficult it is to soothe. Ultimately, the nervous system will find a new “normal” state of equilibrium set at a higher level of arousal than the average baseline.

Football players would greatly benefit from finding more effective coping skills to help them manage their hyperarousal. For examples, counting from 100 to 0 by skipping seven at the time; practicing relaxation by breathing into the diaphragm rather than from the upper chest; spend 10 seconds to visualize a soothing positive image that triggers calmness; or take a few moments to say positive and calming words, even if it is in silence.

Alex Diaz, PhD

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