Effects of pressure and free throw routine on basketball kinematics and sport performance

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In sports, athletes reach new levels every day and are truly masters of their own bodies. Yet, when placed under pressure, the pin-point accuracy and elite level of performance can

In sports, athletes reach new levels every day and are truly masters of their own bodies. Yet, when placed under pressure, the pin-point accuracy and elite level of performance can begin to wane.  Despite plentiful literature investigating the effects of pressure on performance, the underlying mechanisms behind decreased performance in sport are not yet clear.  The current research discusses possible theories for “choking under pressure”, the specific mechanisms through which pressure has its effects, and methods to prevent “choking.”  Fourteen current and former basketball players shot free throws with two primary predictor variables: the presence/absence of performance pressure and the restriction
on-restriction of movement during the pre-shot routine. Results were analyzed using 2x2 Within-Subjects Analysis of Variance. For shooting performance, there was an interaction (approaching significance) such that participants were more affected by pressure when allowed to execute their pre-shot routine. For kinematic variables, significant interactions between pressure and movement restriction were found for elbow-knee cross correlations and there were significant main effects of variability of the acceleration of both the elbow and knee angles. In all kinematic measures, participants exhibited more “novice-like” patterns of movement under pressure when movement was not restricted during the pre-shot routine. Primary results indicate promising evidence that motor control may be a mediating variable between pressure and performance and bring into question the value of a pre-shot routine in basketball.