Sports Improve Quality of Life For Kidney Transplant Patients Interview with:
Elvira Cicognani PhD
Department of Psychology
School of Psychology and Education, University of Bologna
Piazza Aldo Moro, 90 – Cesena, Italy –
Viale Berti Pichat, 5 – Bologna, Italy

Medical Research: What are the main findings of the study?

Dr. Cicognani: The study is part of a larger project of the Italian National Transplant Center (Centro Nazionale Trapianti, CNT), started in 2008, in collaboration with Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Centro Studi Isokinetic, University of Bologna, Cimurri Impresa e Sport and Patients’ associations. The general aim is to encourage transplant patients to practice physical activity and even sport activity, in view of its benefits in enhancing recovery and quality of life after transplantation.

In this study we assessed Health-related quality of life on 118 active kidney transplant patients practicing different sports at low to moderate intensity and compared them with those of 79 sedentary kidney transplant patients and with 120 active healthy control subjects.

Active transplant patients reported higher levels of quality of life than sedentary patients on most dimensions of quality of life and similar to active healthy controls. In brief, practicing sports may allow patients to achieve a level of quality of life similar to the general population of active individuals.

Medical Research: What was most surprising about the results?

Dr. Cicognani: The most surprising result was that our sample of transplant patients who are practicing sport activity under adequate control and treatment, reported even higher levels of mental health and social functioning than healthy controls participants. This indicates that practicing physical activity, and even sport activity, may improve not only physical health but also psychological and psychosocial aspects of patients’ functioning.

To better understand this finding we also conducted in-depth interviews with some transplant patients. The findings confirmed the central role of sport practice in patients’ everyday life experience and overall well-being (resembling the types of “peak experiences” described by flow theories of psychological well-being; e.g. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi) as well as the importance of social relations and social support that patients enjoy through their collective engagement in organized sports.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Cicognani: The main message coming from the study is that the concerns of patients, family members and health professionals about the risks of sport activity for kidney transplant patients in sports may be excessive and even counterproductive. Patients who are willing to (and have the possibilities to) practice physical and sport activity should be encouraged to do it, as they may find benefits on their overall quality of life.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Cicognani: Future research should devote more attention to investigating how psychological and social processes interact with biological factors in sustaining recovery processes and maintenance of a healthy condition after transplantation. To this purpose, longitudinal studies are needed.


Sport activity and health-related quality of life after kidney transplantation.

Mazzoni D, Cicognani E, Mosconi G, Totti V, Roi GS, Trerotola M, Nanni Costa A
Transplant Proc. 2014 Sep;46(7):2231-4. doi: 10.1016/j.transproceed.2014.07.049.