The Science behind Sachin’s Nervous Ninety

Dr K K Aggarwal
Padma Shri and Dr B C Roy National Awardee
President, Heart Care Foundation of India

One more four and a world record of hundred centuries. Oops….. he is out and no record. This is what Sachin Tendulkar is facing.

This is what is called as ‘Performance Anxiety’ in medical language and in cricket words the term is often used as ‘nervous 90’.
In cricket performance anxiety is also seen when you are facing the first ball. Many players get out on the very first ball.

The physiology is at the sub-conscious level. There is a sudden rush of sympathetic over activity with influx of chemicals like adrenaline or non-adrenaline, which increases pulse rate, blood pressure, increased sweating and leads to impairment in the fine skills and judgment.

A person in acute anxiety cannot thread a needle, as the fineness required for the same will not be there. Medically one can find presence of fine tremors on the fingers.

TO be or not TO be

Many marital disharmonies are also the result of first night nervousness. One of the commonest causes of erectile dysfunction in males is performance anxiety. Such people may have erectile dysfunction with a particular partner and not with the other. Extra marital affairs are also associated with performance anxiety in many cases.
Facing an interview, an adolescent on his first date, appearing in an exam or viva, are also common situations affected by performance anxiety. Quite often one may find that a student who has been doing well throughout the year fails to score good marks in the final exam. That is one reason why the western schools do not believe in the final exam results but on the overall performance of the year.
People who have marfanoid features, where the out-stretch arm length is more than the height, are especially prone to get episodes of anxiety. Seven percent of normal population may have these features.

Performance anxiety also increases in people who regularly smoke, consume tobacco or take alcohol more than permissible limits. Many herbs, which have actions like ephedrine and amphetamine, can also precipitate it. Tea, coffee and cola in excess can have cardiac stimulatory action and precipitate anxiety.

Fight and flight reactions are the most primitive reactions of the body. Performance anxiety belongs to one such reaction. Learning primordial sound meditation and done for 20 minutes twice daily regularly can shift one from sympathetic to para sympathetic mode and develop resistance towards this condition.

Yoga nidra, yoga shavasana, progressive muscular relaxation, mind-body relaxation, alternative nostril pranayama, regular walking, etc. are other exercises described in Vedic literature which helps stabilization of sympathetic nervous system in the body.

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