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W Freund, F Weber, C Billich, F Birklein, M Breimhorst and UH Schuetz
Abstract
INTRODUCTION: Susceptibility to pain varies among individuals and may predispose to a higher risk for pain disorders. Thus, it is of interest to investigate subjects who exhibit higher resistance to pain. We therefore tested pain tolerance and assessed personality traits of ultra-marathon athletes who are able to run 4487 km (2789 mi) over 64 days without resting days and compare the results to controls. METHODS: After approval of the local ethics committee and with informed consent, 11 participants of the TransEurope FootRace (TEFR09 participants) and 11 matched (age, sex, and ethnicity) controls without marathon experience in the last 5 years were enrolled. They were tested for cold pain tolerance (cold pressor [CP] test), and the 240 item trait and character inventory (TCI) as well as the general self-efficacy (GSE) test were obtained. RESULTS: TransEurope FootRace participants had a highly significant greater cold pain tolerance in the CP test than controls (P = 0.0002). While the GSE test showed no differences, the TCI test provided TEFR09 participants to be less cooperative and reward dependent but more spiritually transcendent than the controls. Significant positive correlations were found between the CP test pain score at 180 seconds and several TCI subscales showing that higher pain scores correlate with higher reward dependence, dependence, cooperativeness, empathy, and pure-hearted conscience. CONCLUSIONS: Personality profiles as well as pain tolerance of our sample of TEFR09 participants differ from normal controls and-as obtained in previous studies-probably also from chronic pain patients. Low pain perception may predispose a person to become a long-distance runner. It remains unclear, however, whether low pain perception is cause or consequence of continuous extreme training.
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Concepts
Marathon, Neuroticism, Trait theory, Personality psychology, Chronic pain, Informed consent, Psychology, Pain
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