Sports Medicine

, Volume 31, Issue 12, pp 875–890 | Cite as

Psychological Factors in Sport Performance

The Mental Health Model Revisited
  • John S. RaglinEmail author
Review Article


The Mental Health Model (MHM) of sport performance purports that an inverse relationship exists between psychopathology and sport performance. The model postulates that as an athlete’s mental health either worsens or improves performance should fall or rise accordingly, and there is now considerable support for this view. Studies have shown that between 70 and 85% of successful and unsuccessful athletes can be identified using general psychological measures of personality structure and mood state, a level superior to chance but insufficient for the purpose of selecting athletes. Longitudinal MHM research indicates that the mood state responses of athletes exhibit a dose-response relationship with their training load, a finding that has shown potential for reducing the incidence of the staleness syndrome in athletes who undergo intensive physical training. The MHM also has implications for the general care of athletes as support services have traditionally been limited to preventing or treating physical problems. Despite its simple premise and empirical support, the MHM has often been mischaracterised in the sport psychology literature and recently some authors have questioned its validity. This overview will summarise MHM research, including the more recent work involving the model’s dynamic features in an effort to resolve disputes surrounding the model.


Mood State Mood Disturbance Training Load Sport Performance Positive Mental Health 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. 1.
    Costill DL. Inside running: basics of sports physiology. Carmel (IN): Cooper, 1986Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Dudley AT. The mental qualities of an athlete. Harvard Alumni Mag 1888; 6: 43–51Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Cooper L. Athletics, activity and personality: a review of the literature. Res Q 1969; 40: 17–22PubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Warburton RW, Kane JE. Personality related to sport and physical activity. In: Kane JE, editor. Readings in physical education. London: P.E. Association, 1966: 61–89Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Spielberger CD, Gorsuch RL, Lushene PE, et al. In: Manual for the state-trait anxiety inventory (Form Y). Palo Alto (CA): Consulting Psychologist Press, 1983Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Eysenck HJ. Four ways five factors are not basic. Perspect Ind Differ 1992; 13: 667–73CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Digman JM. Personality structure: emergence of the five-factor model. Ann Rev Psychol 1990; 41: 417–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Ogilvie BC, Tutko TA. Problem athletes and how to handle them. London: Pelham, 1966Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Eysenck HJ, Nias KBD, Cox DN. Personality and sport. Adv Behav Res Ther 1982; 1: 1–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Morgan WP. The credulous-sceptical argument in perspective. In: Straub WF, editor. An analysis of athlete behavior. Ithaca (NY): Movement Publications, 1978: 218–27Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Morgan WP. Selected psychological factors limiting performance: a mental health model. In: Clarke DH, Eckert HM, editors. Limits of human performance. Champaign (IL): Human Kinetics, 1985: 70–80Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Smith TW. Punt, pass, and ponder the questions. The New York Times 1997 Apr 20; Sect F: 11Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Hruby, P. Tests of character. The Washington Times 2000 Feb 25; Sect B: 2Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Kroll W. Reaction to Morgan’s paper: psychological consequences of vigorous physical activity and sport. In: Scott MG, editor. The academy papers. Iowa City (IA): American Academy of Physical Education, 1976: 35Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Martens R. The paradigmatic crisis in American sport psychology. Sportwissenschaft 1975; 5: 9–24Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Rushall BS. An evaluation of the relationship between personality and physical performance categories. In: Kenyon GS, editor. Contemporary psychology of sport. Chicago (IL): Athletic Institute, 1970: 157–65Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Singer RN, Harris D, Kroll W, et al. Psychological testing of athletes. J Phys Educ Rec 1977; 48: 30–2Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Morgan WP. The trait psychology controversy. Res Q Exerc Sport 1980; 51: 50–76PubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Vealey RS. Sport personology: a paradigmatic and methodological analysis. J Sport Exerc Psychol 1989; 11: 216–35Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Vanden Auweele Y, De Cuyper B, Van Mele V, et al. Elite performance and personality: from description and prediction to diagnosis and intervention. In: Singer RN, Murphey M, Tennant LK, editors. Handbook of research in sport psychology. New York (NY): Macmillan, 1993: 257–89Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Rowley AJ, Landers DM, Kyllo LB, et al. Does the iceberg profile discriminate between successful and less successful athletes? A meta-analysis. J Sport Exerc Psychol 1994; 17: 185–99Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Vealey RS. Personality and sport: a comprehensive view. In: Horn TS, editor. Advances in sport psychology. Champaign (IL): Human Kinetics, 1992: 23–59Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Meyers AW, Whelan JP, Murphy SM. Cognitive behavioral strategies in athletic performance enhancement. In: Hersen M, Eisler RM, Miller PM, editors. Progress in behavior modification. Vol 30. Pacific Grove (CA): Brooks/Cole, 1996: 137–64Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Danish SJ, Hale BD. Toward an understanding of the practice of sport psychology. J Sport Psychol 1981; 3: 90–9Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Brewer BW, Petrie TA. Psychopathology in sport and exercise. In: Van Raalte JL, Brewer B, editors. Exploring sport and exercise psychology. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 1996: 257–74CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Renger R. A review of the Profile of Mood States (POMS) in the prediction of athletic success. J Appl Sport Psychol 1993; 5: 78–84CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Terry P. The efficacy of mood state profiling with elite performers: a review and synthesis. Sport Psychol 1995; 9: 309–24Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Hardy L, Jones G, Gould D. Understanding psychological preparation in sport. New York (NY): John Wiley & Sons, 1997Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Weinberg RS, Gould D. Foundations of sport and exercise psychology. 2nd ed. Champaign (IL): Human Kinetics, 1999Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Nagle FJ, Morgan WP, Hellickson RO, et al. Spotting success traits in Olympic contenders. Phys Sports Med 1975; 3: 31–4Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Krane V. Conceptual and methodological considerations In sport anxiety research: from the inverted-U to catastrophe theory. Quest 1992; 44: 72–87CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Raglin JS, Turner PE. Anxiety and performance in track and field athletes: a comparison of the inverted-U hypothesis with ZOF theory. Pers Individ Diff 1993; 14: 163–72CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Turner PE, Raglin JS. Variability in precompetition anxiety and performance in college track and field athletes. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1996; 28: 378–85PubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Costill DL. Applied exercise physiology. American College of Sports Medicine: 40th Anniversary Lectures. Indianapolis (IN): American College of Sports Medicine, 1994: 69–79Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Morgan WP, Johnson RW. Personality characteristics of successful and unsuccessful oarsmen. Int J Sport Psychol 1978; 9: 119–33Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Johnson RW, Morgan WP. Personality characteristics of college athletes in different sports. Scand J Sport Sci 1981; 3: 41–9Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    Brody S, Wagner D, Heinrichs M, et al. Social desirability scores are associated with higher morning cortisol levels in firefighters. J Psychosom Res 49: 227–8Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Morgan WP, O’Connor PJ, Ellickson KA, et al. Personality structure, mood states, and performance in elite male distance runners. Int J Sport Psychol 1988; 19: 247–63Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Newcombe PA, Boyle GJ. High school students’ sports personalities: variations across participation level, gender, type of sport, and success. Int J Sport Psychol 1995; 26: 277–94Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Morgan WP. Psychophysiology of self-awareness during vigorous physical activity. Res Q Exerc Sport 1981; 52: 385–427PubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    McCrae R, Costa P. Personality, coping and coping effectiveness in an adult sample. J Person 1986; 4: 587–601Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    Gomez R, Holmberg K, Bounds J, et al. Neuroticism and extraversion as predictors of coping styles during early adolescence. Pers Individ Diff 1999; 27: 3–17CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    Hardman KA. Dual approach to the study of personality and sport in performance. In: Whiting HTA, Hardman KA, Hendry LB, et al., editors. Personality and performance in physical education and sport. Lafayette (IN): Balt Publishers, 1973: 77–122Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    Cook DB, O’Connor PJ, Eubanks SA, et al. Naturally occurring muscle pain during exercise: assessment and experimental evidence. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1997; 29: 999–1012PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. 45.
    Cattell RB. Manual for the 16-PF. Champaign (IL): Institute for Personality and Ability Testing, 1972Google Scholar
  46. 46.
    Eysenck HJ, Eysenck SBG. Manual for the Eysenck personality inventory. San Diego (CA): Educational and Industrial Testing Service, 1968Google Scholar
  47. 47.
    Eysenck HJ, Eysenck SBG. Manual for the Eysenck personality questionnaire. San Diego (CA): Educational and Industrial Testing Service, 1975Google Scholar
  48. 48.
    Depue RA, Collins PF. Neurobiology of the structure of personality: dopamine, facilitation of incentive motivation and extraversion. Behav Brain Sci 1999; 22: 491–569PubMedGoogle Scholar
  49. 49.
    Mahoney MJ. Psychological predictors of elite and non-elite performance in olympic weight lifting. Int J Sport Psychol 1989; 20: 1–12Google Scholar
  50. 50.
    Bartram D. The predictive validity of the EPI and 16PF for military flight training. J Occup Organ Psychol 1995; 68: 219–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. 51.
    Jessup GH. Validity of the Eysenck personality inventory in pilot selection. Occup Psychol 1971; 21: 158–69Google Scholar
  52. 52.
    Fassbender C, Goetters K. Psychological evaluation of European astronaut applicants. Aviat Space Environ Med 1994; 65: 925–9PubMedGoogle Scholar
  53. 53.
    Rose RM, Fogg LF, Helmreich RL, et al. Psychological predictors of astronaut effectiveness. Aviat Space Environ Med 1994; 65: 910–5PubMedGoogle Scholar
  54. 54.
    Leon GR, McNally C, Ben-Porath YS. Personality characteristics, mood, and coping strategies in a successful North Pole expedition team. J Res Pers 1989; 23: 162–79CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. 55.
    Raglin JS, O’Connor PJ, Carlson N, et al. Responses to underwater exercise in scuba divers differing in trait anxiety. Undersea Hyperb Med 1996; 77–82Google Scholar
  56. 56.
    Johnson RF, Merullo DJ. Psychological mood profiles of army, marine corps, and special operations forces personnel. Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society 41st Meeting; 1997 Sep 22–26; Albuquerque (NM), 594–8Google Scholar
  57. 57.
    Morgan WP, Brown DL, Raglin JS, et al. Psychological monitoring of overtraining and staleness. Br J Sports Med 1987; 21: 107–14PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. 58.
    O’Connor PJ. Overtraining and staleness. In: Morgan WP, editor. Physical activity and mental health. New York (NY): Hemisphere, 1997: 145–60Google Scholar
  59. 59.
    Raglin JS, Eksten F, Garl FT. Mood state responses to a pre-season conditioning program in male collegiate basketball players. Int J Sport Psychol 1995; 26: 214–25Google Scholar
  60. 60.
    O’Connor PJ, Morgan WP, Raglin JS, et al. Mood state and salivary cortisol changes following overtraining in female swimmers. Psychoneuroendocrinology 1989; 14: 303–10PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. 61.
    Raglin JS, Morgan WP, O’Connor PJ. Changes in mood states during training in female and male college swimmers. Int J Sports Med 1991; 12: 585–9PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. 62.
    Raglin JS, Koceja DM, Stager JM, et al. Mood, neuromuscular function, and performance during training in female swimmers. Med Sci Sport Exerc; 28: 372–7Google Scholar
  63. 63.
    Raglin JS, Wilson GS. Overtraining in athletes In: Hanin, YL, editor. Emotions in sport. Champaign (IL): Human Kinetics, 1999: 191–207Google Scholar
  64. 64.
    Berglund B, Säfström H. Psychological monitoring and modulation of training load of world-class canoeists. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1994; 26: 1036–40PubMedGoogle Scholar
  65. 65.
    Raglin JS, Morgan WP, Luchsinger AE. Mood state and selfmotivation in successful and unsuccessful women rowers. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1990; 22: 849–53PubMedGoogle Scholar
  66. 66.
    Hirt ER, Levine GM, McDonald HE, et al. The role of mood in quantitative and qualitative aspects of performance: single or multiple mechanisms. J Exp Soc Psychol 1997; 33: 602–9CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. 67.
    Hanin YL. State-trait anxiety research in the USSR. In: Spielberger CD, Diaz-Guerrero R, editors. Cross cultural anxiety. Vol 3. Washington, DC: Hemisphere, 1986: 45–64Google Scholar
  68. 68.
    Hanin YL. Emotions and athletic performance: individual zones of optimal functioning model. In: Seiler R, editor. European yearbook on sport psychology. Vol 1. Sank Augustin: FEBSAC, 1997: 30–70Google Scholar
  69. 69.
    Raglin JS. Anxiety and sport performance. Exerc Sports Sci Rev 1992; 20: 243–74CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. 70.
    Costill DL, Flynn MG, Kirwan JP, et al. Effects of repeated days of intensified training on muscle glycogen and swimming performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1988; 20: 249–54PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. 71.
    Morgan WP, O’Connor PJ, Sparling PB, et al. Psychological characterization of the elite female distance runner. Int J Sports Med 1987; 8 Suppl.: 124–31PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. 72.
    Prapavessis H, Grove JR. Precompetitive emotions and shooting performance: the mental health and zone of optimal function models. Sport Psychol 1991; 5: 223–34Google Scholar
  73. 73.
    Prapavessis H. The POMS and sports performance: a review. J Appl Sport Psychol 2000; 12: 34–48CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. 74.
    Terry PC, Lane AM. Normative values for the profile of mood state for use with athletic samples. J Appl Sport Psychol 2000; 12: 93–109CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. 75.
    Walden TA, Smith MA. Emotion regulation. Motiv Emot 1997; 21: 7–24Google Scholar
  76. 76.
    Cerin E, Szabo A, Hunt C, et al. Temporal patterning of competitive emotions: a critical view. J Sport Sci 2000; 18: 605–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. 77.
    McNair DM, Lorr M, Dropplemann LF. Profile of mood states manual. San Diego (CA): Educational and Testing Service, 1992Google Scholar
  78. 78.
    O’Connor PJ, Morgan WP, Raglin JS. Psychobiologic effects of three days of increased training in female and male swimmers. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1991; 23: 1055–61PubMedGoogle Scholar
  79. 79.
    Morgan WP, Costill DL, Flynn MG, et al. Mood disturbance following increased training in swimmers. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1988; 20: 408–14PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. 80.
    Durtschi SK, Weiss MR. Psychological characteristics of elite and nonelite marathon runners. In: Landers DM, editor. Sport and elite performers. Champaign (IL): Human Kinetics, 1984: 74–80Google Scholar
  81. 81.
    Meyer GJ, Finn SE, Eyde LD, et al. Psychological testing and psychological assessment. Am Psychol 2001; 56: 128–65PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. 82.
    Rosenthal R. Evaluation of procedures and meta-analytic results. In: Meta-analytic procedures. Applied Social Research Methods Series. Vol 6. London: Sage, 1991: 127–36Google Scholar
  83. 83.
    Haney CJ, Long BC. Coping effectiveness: a path analysis of self-efficacy, control, coping, and performance in sport competitions. J Appl Soc Psychol 1995; 25: 1726–46CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. 84.
    Kenttä G, Hassmén P, Raglin J. Training practices and overtraining syndrome in Swedish age-group athletes. Int J Sport Med 2001; 22: 460–5CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. 85.
    May JR, Veach TL, Reed MW, et al. A psychological study of health, injury, and performance in athletes on the US alpine ski team. Phys Sports Med 1985; 13: 111–5Google Scholar
  86. 86.
    Smith RE, Smoll FL, Patcek JT. Conjunctive moderator variables in vulnerability and resiliency research: life stress, social support, and coping skills, and adolescent sports injuries. J Pers Soc Psychol 1990; 58: 360–70PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. 87.
    Williams J, Roepke N. Psychology of injury and rehabilitation. In: Singer RN, Murphey M, Tennent LK, editors. Handbook of research on sport psychology. New York (NY): Macmillan, 1993: 815–39Google Scholar
  88. 88.
    Mote Jr CD. The forces in skiing and their implication to injury. Int J Sport Biomech 1987; 3: 309–25Google Scholar
  89. 89.
    Sabbe B, Hulstijn, W, Van Hoof J, et al. Fine motor retardation and depression. J Psychiat Res 1996; 30: 295–306PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  90. 90.
    Amirkhan JH, Risinger RT, Swickert RJ. Extraversion: a ’hidden’ personality factor in coping? J Pers 1995; 63: 189–212PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Adis International Limited 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of KinesiologyIndiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA

Personalised recommendations