Interrogating cortical representations in elite athletes with persistent posterior thigh pain - New targets for intervention?

Simon J. Summers, K. Jane Chalmers, Sarah B. Wallwork, Hayley B. Leake, G. Lorimer Moseley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Objectives: Hamstring injuries in athletes can lead to significant time away from competition as a result of persistent posterior thigh pain. These cases are often difficult to treat as the state of the tissues alone cannot explain symptoms. In non-athletic populations with persistent pain, disruptions to tactile, proprioceptive, and spatial cortical representations exist, which has led to promising brain-based treatments. Here, we explored whether athletes with persistent posterior thigh pain also display impairments in these cortical representations. Design: Cross-sectional study. Methods: Fourteen male professional athletes with persistent posterior thigh pain (‘Patients’) and 14 pain-free age, sport, body mass index and level-matched controls (‘Controls’) participated. The tactile cortical representation was assessed using two-point discrimination (TPD) threshold and accuracy of tactile localisation; the proprioceptive cortical representation was assessed using a left/right judgement task; spatial processing was assessed using an auditory detection task. Results: TPD thresholds were similar for Patients and Controls (p = 0.70). Patients were less accurate at localising tactile stimuli delivered to their affected leg, slower to make left/right judgements when the lower limb image corresponded to the side of their affected leg, and less accurate at detecting auditory stimuli delivered near their affected leg, when compared to their healthy leg or to the leg of Controls (p < 0.01 for all). Conclusions: Leg-specific tactile, proprioceptive, and spatial processing deficits exist in athletes with persistent posterior thigh pain. That these processing deficits exist despite rehabilitation and normal tissue healing time suggests they may play a role in the persistence of posterior thigh pain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)135-140
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Science and Medicine in Sport
Volume24
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021

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