Downhill Skiing and Psychology

January 31, 2010 1 comment

Downhill Skiing and the Winter Olympics
Watch THE NEXT episode of
Inside Sport – Michael Johnson, Downhill Skier

Monday 8 February
10.35-11.05pm BBC ONE ( or thereafter on i-player)
Olympic sprinting legend Michael Johnson moves from track to piste to discover what makes downhill skiers risk their lives in pursuit of sporting glory.Hurtling down a mountain at up to 80mph with minimal protection is something that most people would consider an act of madness, so Michael sets out to discover why these athletes enjoy what they do so much and how they deal with the risks involved and the crashes that inevitably happen. Talking to some of the biggest names in the sport, including skiing greats Franz Klammer and Hermann Maier, as well as experts from the world of psychology and neurology, Michael aims to discover just what makes downhill skiers tick.
There are a variety of motivational factors that push skiers and other individuals towards participation in extreme sport . For example, it could be due to risk taking, sensation seeking, arousal seeking or perhaps it based on certain personality factors. What everyone wants to know is why these Olympians are putting their lives at risk. We all accept that high achievement at sport is linked in with the pursuit of excellence and enjoyment of sport. There are achievement theories that can account for this (needs achievement and self determination theory). Research has also revealed that there are a number of other motivational factors such as social facilitation, physical fitness, affiliation, aggression, self esteem, self actualization and stress release.
In this episode of extreme sport , I talk to Michael Johnson about why there is this variation in risk. Risk taking has been linked with sensation seeking. Sensation seeking is a trait which includes risk taking and sensation seeking behaviours and in addition an intolerance for boredom.
There is a difference demonstrated between those involved in moderate risk sports compared to Skiers. This is the perception of self-efficacy or confidence which emerges as a distinguishing factor between these two groups. So skiers score even higher on self confidence though this is also linked in with a desire for mastery which encourages risk takers to overcome the potentially inhibiting influences of anxiety, fear, and the recognition of danger.
Sensation seeking isn’t just about a need for stimulation. It includes a strong desire for novel experiences and the importance of these pursuits outweighed the risk even with regard to negative media attention. So some undertake extreme sport to feel alive and keep from being bored !
Sensation seeking is a trait defined by the seeking of varied, novel, complex and intense sensations and experiences and the willingness to take physical -in sport- (there are also risks in social , legal, and financial) risks for the sake of experiences. Sensation seekers do not seek risk for its own sake and it is not the riskiness that makes it rewarding though participating in extreme sport may pose a risk. The perceived benefits overweigh the risk of injury.
Rhonda Cohen Registered Sport & Exercise Psychologist , specializing in extreme sport . Head of the London Sport Institute at Middlesex University


Rhonda Cohen’s Biography

January 2, 2010 1 comment


Qualifications: MSc., PGCHE, CPsychol.,CSci., HPC

Professional Qualifications :

Registered Sport & Exercise Psychologist (HPC and BPS)

NLP Practitioner

Middlesex University

The Burroughs

Hendon NW4 4BT


United Kingdom

Academic area: Sport & Exercise Psychology ; Specializing in Extreme Sport

Member of: London Sport Institute
Base campus: Hendon 
Tel: +44 (0)20 8411 2651
Email: ;

Psychology of Extreme Sport ; Motivation and Risk ;  Psychology of recovery from sporting injuries, Sensation Seeking and Thrill Seeking.
PhD in the Personality and Motivation of participants in Extreme Sport & Activity .

Teaching interests

Sport & Exercise Psychology ; Applied Sport Psychology ; Psychology of Sport Injuries ; Dissertation Supervisor; Psychology of Enhancing Performance


Registered and Chartered  Psychologist (Licensed to Practice): Sport & Exercise Psychology
Director Consultancy STEP@ MU  : Solutions to Enhanced Performance at Middlesex University (

University Roles

  • MU Health Ethics Committee
  • School Academic Foresight Committee
  • Widening participation Group
  • School Progression and Achievement Committee
  • HSSc Business Development Group

External Roles
Module Leader in Sport Psychology (UCL)

Professional Memberships

  • British Psychological Society (BPS)
  • BPS Division of Sport & Exercise Psychology
  • BPS Special Group in Coaching Psychology
  • British Association of Sport & Exercise Sciences (BASES)
  • BASES Special Interest – Psychology Interest Group
  • Royal Society of Medicine – Fellow
  • Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP)
  • International Association of Applied Psychology (IAAP)
  • North American Society for the Psychology of Sport & Physical Activity (NASPSA)
  • American Psychological Association (APA) associate member

Professional Qualifications

Registered Sport & Exercise Psychologist (HPC)

Chartered Psychologist (Licensed to Practice): Sport & Exercise Psychology, British

Psychological Society  -(CPsychol)

Chartered Scientist, British Psychological Society  -(CSci)

Note: The Health Profession Council (HPC) monitors the protected title of Sport Psychologist

Main area of research

Psychological factors affecting participation and performance in extreme sport

Current research projects

Classifying and Defining extreme sport

Personality in Extreme Sport

Profiling of participants involved in the extreme sport

High Risk and Sensation Seeking in Extreme Sport


  • Cohen, R. (2009) Guest Editor of Journal of Health, Social and Environmental Issues, vol.10, no 1.
  • Cohen, R. (2009) Foreword  for Journal of Health Social and Environmental, vol.10, no 3-4

  • Lazarus,J. and Cohen, R. (2009) Sport Psychology and the use of Neuro Linguistic (Journal of Health, Social and Environmental Issues, vol.10, no 1. pp. 5-12
  • Cohen, R.(1995). Exercise Addiction Video. Division Sport Exercise Psychology. Published by BPS. Warwick University.

Books/Chapters in books

Cohen, R., Nordin,S. and Abrahamson, E. (2009). Psychology of Injury chapter. In Sports Rehabilitation and Injury Prevention – Wiley and Son, publishers (In Press).

Cohen, R. (1995)  “Hooked on Addiction” as in Exercise Addiction . Annett, Crisps and Steinberg (editors).  Sport and Exercise Psychology section of BPS.  Leicester. BPS Conference, Warwick University.


Cohen, R and Lazarus,J. (2008) The Use of NLP in teaching Sports students’. Sports conference at Middlesex University on ‘Learning by Doing’. ( presentation and abstract)

Cohen, R.(1995). Exercise Addiction Video. Division Sport Exercise Psychology BPS. Presented Warwick University.


  • Open Spaces Conference , Olympic Research bid – with Education department and Canterbury (2009)
  • Cohen, R. (2006).  ‘The Sense of Loss : A Psychological Reaction to Injury’.  Fitness Network : An Official Publication of Fitness Professionals , pages 8-9
  • Podcasts : Sport Psychology 2006.  ITunes   Imagery: controllability;  vividness;  Script Writing
    • PGCHE :  “The use of reflections and learning journals in the teaching of  Sport Psychology”  January 2006
  • MSc dissertation ( 1995) “ Does Addiction to Exercise or Sport create or reduce problems ? The relationship between spheres of control and satisfaction

Contribution to Press

  • IPROS –  Psychology of motor racing and cars – November 2008
  • Barnet Press –Obesity and children 29/2/08
  • Psychology of Cricketers and stress – International press (2007)
  • Motor Sport News – January 2006
  • MU Sports Development News Letter (Nov 2005)
  • The Times -newspaper article :  Drag Racing (Summer 2005 )
  • MU :  School of Health & Social Sciences Newsletter for students (Summer 2005)
  • MU World (Spring 2005)
  • Telegraph – Online article -30th January 2005
  • Telegraph Motoring Saturday – 29th January 2005
  • Insight (January 2005)
  • The Independent Newspaper -1995 (Sports Addiction)

Television /Radio Contribution

  • Inside Sport – BBC (8th February 2010)
  • History Channel (February 2010)
  • Image Wizard for Sky Sport
  • Men and Motors , Speed Vision -shown worldwide. 2006
  • Sky Sport  (interviewed for a show on racing drivers analysing their behaviour)Spring 2005
  • Contributed to a channel 4 documentary on Sport Addiction 1997
  • Contributed to a Radio 4 show on Sport Addiction 1996


  • STEP – Solutions to Enhanced Performance at Middlesex University.   Consultancy, CPD, seminars, presentations,
  • Approved Supervisory Trainee Psychologists (BPS) STAGE 2 Training
  • Sport & Exercise Psychologist -Top Methanol Dragster Racing team, European Champions 2002-2006

Industrial Links

  • Tottenham Hotspur Foundation
  • LOCOG – project for Recruiters and Volunteers for the 2012 Games
  • Skills Active
  • Pro Active Partnership : North London
  • Podium
  • HEA Special Interest Group – Olympics

Membership of University Committees

  • London Sports Institute (LSI)  Group (Chair )
  • Academic Foresight Committee School of  Health and Social Sciences
  • Health Ethics Sub Committee (2007 to present)
  • Business Development Group School of Health and Social Sciences

External –teaching and presenting

  • UCL – Sport Psychology Module Leader and Lecturer- MSc Sport Exercise Medicine (2002-2009) for GPs and Qualified Physiotherapists
  • Eastman Dental Institute for Oral Health Care Sciences – Psychology of Sport Injury –  Postgraduate Diploma in Restorative Dental Practice, Sports Dentistry July 2006; July 2007; February 2009; February 2010
  • Sport Science Seminars for TASS (Governmental – Talented Athletes Scheme) ; Sessions:  Arousal and Stress Management  2007- 2010;  Sport Psychology Needs Analysis  Profiling (2006),Psychological Skills Training (2005),  Goal setting and Developing Self Confidence (2004)
  • Health Schools Living Project  – Psychological session May 2006


  • Freelance Photographer
  • British Off Road Driving Association Training (BORDA) February 2008
  • Extreme Sport Experiences :  off-roading, white water rafting , swimming with stingrays ,sky diving , jet skiing ,cross country skiing, motor cycling , helicopter ,bob sleighing , canoeing in mangroves  with sharks , snowmobiling,

April 25, 2009 Leave a comment
Categories: 2012 olympics