Pain catastrophizing in college athletes

Aaron Sciascia, Jacob Waldecker, Cale Jacobs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Background: Pain is the most common patient-reported symptom but the perception of pain is complex, differs between individuals and is not directly proportional to the extent of injury. The relationship between aberrant pain coping strategies such as pain catastrophizing and the presence of pain in competitive athletes should be further established to employ the most optimal treatment. Hypothesis: The hypotheses were that numeric pain rating and pain catastrophizing (Pain Catastrophizing Scale, PCS) scores would have amoderate to strong relationship in college athletes, and athletes with either a current injury or previous injury, or playing with pain, would have significantly higher pain catastrophizing scores compared with noninjured/nonpainful athletes. Study Design: Cross-sectional study. Level of Evidence: III. Methods: College athletes completed a demographic form, injury questionnaire, numeric pain rating, and the PCS. All athletes were medically cleared for sports participation at the time of survey completion. A total PCS score was calculated in addition to a rumination, magnification, and helplessness score. Spearman rank was utilized to measure the strength of relationship between the PCS score and pain rating. Results: A total of 291 athletes from 15 different sports completed the questionnaires (males: 156, females: 135; age: 19 [2] y). Negligible correlations existed between the PCS score and pain (r = .27). Athletes who were currently injured or previously injured had significantly higher PCS scores compared with uninjured athletes (P < .01). Conclusions: Approximately one-third of college athletes reported playing injured and/or with pain, but the relationship between pain rating and PCS score was negligible. The individualistic nature of pain perception and coping strategies would suggest that clinicians may want to consider screening for pain catastrophizing either prior to athletic participation or for athletes not following an expected recovery after injury in an effort to enhance individualized patient care.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)168-173
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Sport Rehabilitation
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Human Kinetics, Inc.


  • Athletic injury
  • Coping strategies
  • Patient outcomes
  • Previous injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation


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