Kayleigh Watts (left), with Fleur Peoples (centre) and Stuart Ballantine (right) with their award-winning research.

National award for muscle pain research from University of Exeter

New research on the association between psychological variables and pain intensity of delayed onset muscle soreness by a University of Exeter academic has won a prestigious national award.

The Undergraduate Research Assistantship Scheme identifies students as potential academics and future researchers, granting awards to 12 successful undergraduates. The programme bestows the award to a senior researcher to develop a student’s potential and interest in research.

Dr Martin I. Jones, Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Psychology, was awarded the grant of £1,200. Dr Jones chose undergraduate Kayleigh Watts, allowing her to get hands-on experience of research and an insight into a career in scientific research during the summer vacation.

As part of the award, Kayleigh, of the Psychology with Sport and Exercise Science programme, presented the research undertaken on the summer placement at the British Psychological Society’s annual conference in Nottingham on April 27. Kayleigh, Oliver Whitton, Stuart Ballantine and Fleur Peoples – a mixture of undergraduate and postgraduate students that helped collect data for the study – all presented the research on whether psychological variables predict the intensity of delayed onset muscle soreness.

As part of their project the students examined the relationship between mental toughness and pain intensity following muscle soreness caused by exercise. A total of 18 female and 19 male volunteers took part in the study, rating their pain and to what extent it stopped them moving around as usual. They found pain catastrophizing – an exaggerated negative mindset regarding actual or anticipated pain – strongly related to the intensity of pain felt and how this interfered with daily activities. This is one of the first papers to present these findings in relation to the athletic population.

Kayleigh, after presenting the research, said: “It has provided me with great hands-on experience of what constitutes research careers and as a result has instilled me to pursue a career in psychology following my undergraduate degree.

“Yesterday was a fantastic experience. Our project was seen by chartered psychologists, lecturers, researchers and other members. It was truly a memorable experience and, not to mention, my name will be in a publication, a great achievement as an undergraduate.”

Dr Martin I. Jones, who led the project, said: “The studentship allowed Kayleigh to get involved with a project designed to examine the relationship between personality variables and the pain experience of people with delayed onset muscle soreness. Kayleigh gained experience in the lab working on a research team and was able to use the skills she developed in the studentship to facilitate her dissertation data collection.”

The paper they presented to get the prize is called: The role of mental toughness and pain catastrophizing on the magnitude and nature of muscle pain following experimentally induced delayed onset muscle soreness.

Date: 29 April 2016

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