Sports and games for post-traumatic stress disorder

Traumatic events evoke strong feelings of fear, helplessness and anxiety. Many who experience a traumatic event overcome these strong emotions however a proportion does not and the emotional reaction may progress into Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Pharmacological and psychological interventions are well known treatments for PTSD but little is known of the use of sports and games for the treatment of PTSD. This review sought to examine studies using sports and games to alleviate symptoms of PTSD.

No studies met the inclusion criteria.

Authors' conclusions: 

No studies met the inclusion criteria. More research is therefore required before a fair assessment can be made of the effectiveness of sports and games in alleviating symptoms of PTSD.

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Background: 

Traumatic experiences evoke emotions such as fear, anxiety and distress and may encourage avoidance of similar situations in the future. For a proportion of those exposed to a traumatic event, this emotional reaction becomes uncontrollable and can develop into Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) (Breslau 2001). Most of those diagnosed with PTSD fully recover while a small proportion develop a chronic PTSD a year after the event (First 2004). Sports and games may be able to alleviate symptoms of PTSD.

Objectives: 

Primary objective:
1. To assess the effectiveness of sports, and games in alleviating and/or diminishing the symptoms of PTSD when compared to usual care or other interventions.

Secondary objective:
2. To assess the effectiveness of different types of sports and games in alleviating and/or diminishing symptoms of PTSD.

Search strategy: 

The Cochrane Collaboration Depression, Anxiety and Neurosis Controlled Trials Registers (CCDAN-CTR) were searched up to June 2008.

The following databases were searched up to June 2008: the Cochrane Central registry of Controlled Trials; MEDLINE; EMBASE; CINAHL; PsycINFO. Reference lists of relevant papers were searched and experts in the field were contacted to determine if other studies were available.

Selection criteria: 

To be included, participants had to be diagnosed with PTSD using criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM IV) and/or ICD criteria. Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) that considered one or more well-specified sports or games for alleviating and/or diminishing symptoms of PTSD were included.

Sports, and games were defined as any organized physical activity done alone or with a group and non-physical activities such as computer games and card games done alone or with a group. Psychological interventions such as music therapy, art therapy and play therapy and behavioural therapy were excluded.

Data collection and analysis: 

Two reviewers (SL and MD) separately checked the titles and abstracts of the search results to determine which studies met the pre-determined inclusion criteria. A flow chart was used to guide the selection process. No studies met the inclusion criteria.  

Main results: 

The search strategy identified five papers but none of the studies met inclusion criteria.

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