Pain Catastrophizing in College Athletes

Author ORCID Identifier

Aaron SciasciaORCID iD icon


Exercise and Sport Science

Document Type


Publication Date



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 a moderate 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.

Journal Title

Journal of Sport Rehabilitation

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