Effects of PETTLEP Imagery on Sports PerformanceLiterature Review: Imagery as a means of assisting success has been used in a variety of applications. Specifically, the use of imagery in enhancing sports performance has been particularly researched, in recent years. The PETTLEP motor-based imagery process has demonstrated encouraging results in a variety of sports, including: golf, hockey, gymnastics, and weight lifting. However, there is still a question regarding if these results can be generalized to other sports and even other facets of the sports already involved in studies and whether or not the results will be found long-term. Holmes and Collins (2001) pioneered the seven-component imagery process known as PETTLEP imagery.
In Holmes and Collins process, there are seven factors that are taken into consideration when implementing this motor-based imagery. These components include: physical, environment, task, timing, learning, emotion, and perspective. The authors surmised that the brain stores memories that are accessed by physical preparation and execution, especially motor imagery that is related to preparation and execution. Their seven-point checklist is an evidence based method that highlights the areas that should be monitored, to enhance the efficacy of the imagery on the physical task. Several researchers have used the PETTLEP imagery practice in their research to determine its effectiveness. Wright and Smith (2009) compared the effects of PETTLEP imagery with the results obtained using more traditional imagery, on muscle strength in its subjects.
Fifty participants were divided into five groups consisting of those who used: PETTLEP, traditional imagery, physical practice, a combination of PETTLEP and practice, and a control group. Over a course of six weeks participants in the PETTLEP, combination and physical practice groups showed improvement in their strength. Interestingly, there were no marked differences in improvement between the participants who used PETTLEP and those who were in the physical practice group. Although these results seem to support the use of PETTLEP for strength improvement, there are limitations to the research. The study period, six weeks, was quite short. The question of whether or not these same results would be seen for longer periods of study needs to be answered.
Other muscle groups should be tested to see if the bicep results can be generalized to the entire body. In addition, whether or not these results can be applied to specific tasks needed to complete sports-specific tasks needs to be demonstrated. Smith, Wright, and Cantwell (2008) studied the effects of PETTLEP imagery on golf bunker shot performance. Thirty-two participants were divided into four groups including: PETTLEP imagery, physical practice, a combination of PETTLEP and physical practice, and a control group. At the end of the six-week experiment, it was found that all groups, apart from the control group, improved significantly. The group who utilized a combination of PETTLEP and physical practice improved the most. Like Wright and Smith (2008), there was also no significant difference found in the level of improvement between the PETTLEP group and the physical practice group. Once again, there is a concern regarding the long-term applicability of the PETTLEP intervention, as the experiment was conducted over such a short duration; however, these results seem to confirm the findings of the previously reviewed research.
This would indicate that, at least in the short-term, there is just as much benefit garnered from using PETTLEP imagery as there is in actual physical practice, when it comes to improving performance. Similar sport-specific performance improvement was found in the earlier study conducted by Smith, Wright, Allsopp, and Westhead (2007). Smith, Wright, Allsopp, and Westhead (2007) compared the effects of PETTLEP-based imagery against the improvements found with the use of traditional imagery, in hockey players and gymnasts. In the first study, 48 varsity hockey players were divided into four groups.
These groups included: sport-specific imagery, clothing imagery, traditional imagery, and a control group. Following a six-week period, the sport-specific group saw the most improvement in penalty flicks. Other than the control group, the traditional imagery group experienced the least amount of improvement. The authors second study featured 40 junior gymnasts.
These participants were divided into four groups that included: PETTLEP, stimulus only imagery, physical practice, and a control group. As was found in both Wright and Smiths (2009) and Smith, Wright, and Cantwells (2008) research, there was significant improvement in both the PETTLEP and physical practice performance; however, both groups improved equally. Yet again, there are questions in whether or not the success of this intervention can be applied universally. To help clarify this, research regarding the timing element of the PETTLEP was conducted (Jenny & Munroe-Chandler, 2008).
Jenny and Munroe-Chandlers (2008) research focused on the timing element of the PETTLEP intervention. The researchers examined the performance effects of three imagery conditions, in regards to soccer dribbling. In addition to the timing variables, the results were also compared to a physical practice group and a control group.
Ninety-seven subjects were divided into five groups including: real-time imagery, slow-motion imagery, slow motion concluded with real-time imagery, physical practice, and a control group. All groups, apart from the control group, showed significant improvement in time and errors. All four experimental groups improved to the same degree. However, the control group also showed improvement in time, during the dribbling task, but not the number of errors. These results make the research inconclusive when applied to the timing aspect of improvement of the task. It also raises considerable doubts regarding the universal application of PETTLEP for improving sports performance.
The PETTLEP imagery intervention has demonstrated through the reviewed literature its value in improving performance in certain, specific sports aspects. However, there are still many questions that need to be answered. Most importantly, none of the studies reviewed were longer than six weeks in length. Therefore, more research needs to be conducted to see if initial performance improvements are continued over time.
In addition, as found in Jenny and Munroe-Chandlers (2008) research, some areas of improvement may not be due to any intervention at all. This raises the question on how much of the previous findings can be generalized.
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