Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
ISSN: 1303 - 2968   
Ios-APP Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
Androit-APP Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
from September 2014
©Journal of Sports Science and Medicine (2007) 06, 21 - 28

Research article
Placebo Effects in Competitive Sport: Qualitative Data
Christopher J. Beedie 
Author Information
Canterbury Christ Church University, North Holmes Road, Canterbury, UK

Christopher J. Beedie
‚úČ Senior Lecturer/Programme Director, Canterbury Christ Church University, North Holmes Road, Canterbury, Kent CT1 1QU, UK
Publish Date
Received: 20-06-2006
Accepted: 30-10-2006
Published (online): 01-03-2007
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The paper examines the placebo effect in sports performance. The possibility that the placebo effect is a more common phenomenon than the quantity of published research would suggest is briefly addressed. It is suggested that the placebo control design often used in sports performance research masks any placebo effects and thus presents a false picture of the mechanisms underlying performance-enhancing interventions in the real world. An electronic survey was sent to 48 competitive, international and professional athletes. Questions related to the placebo effect in competitive sport. Thirty responses were received. Data indicate that the majority (97%) of respondents believe that the placebo effect can exert an influence on sports performance, and that a significant number (73%) have experienced what they defined as a placebo effect. Inductive content analysis reveals that these experiences fall into several categories such as explicit placebo effects, inadvertent false beliefs, ritual and reverse placebo effects. Furthermore, 10 respondents (33%) offer explanations as to the nature of the placebo effect. Again, inductive content analysis reveals that these explanations fall into several categories including deliberate changes in competitive strategy, belief/expectancy, faith in a third party, and marketing. Overall, responses support previous experimental research and anecdotal reports that have found a relationship between belief and sports performance. It is suggested that further research be structured to not simply control for the placebo effect, but to elucidate it.

Key words: Belief, experimental design, performance psychology, research methods

           Key Points
  • A survey of 30 athletes revealed that 73% have experienced a placebo effect in sport.
  • Athletes suggest several potential explanations for these effects.
  • Findings support the idea that placebo effects might be common in sport.
  • Researchers and practitioners should be aware of the possible impact of these effects on research findings and competitive performance.
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