A theory of challenge and threat states in athletes

Marc Jones, Carla Meijen, Paul McCarthy, David Sheffield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

221 Citations (Scopus)


We propose a Theory of Challenge and Threat States in Athletes (TCTSA) which is an amalgamation and extension of the biopsychosocial model of challenge and threat, the model of adaptive approaches to competition and the debilitative and facilitative competitive state anxiety model. In the TCTSA we posit that self-efficacy, perceptions of control, and achievement goals determine challenge or threat states in response to competition. Distinct patterns of neuroendocrine and cardiovascular responses are indicative of a challenge or threat state. Increases in epinephrine and cardiac activity, and a decrease in total peripheral vascular resistance (TPR) characterise a challenge state and increases in cortisol, smaller increases in cardiac activity and either no change or an increase in TPR characterise a threat state.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)161-180
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2009


  • theory of challenge and threat states in athletes
  • sport psychology


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