"It's extremely important how coaches interact and give the team some plausible cause why they can recover and win," Lustberg said. "One of the crucial things is how they coach or the leaders of the team come in and give them a reason to believe."
That could be happening today in two lockers room as the New York Rangers try to come back from a 3-1 deficit against the Los Angeles Kings for the NHL title, and as the Miami Heat try to rebound from a 3-1 deficit against the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA.
Lustberg says that for either the Rangers of Heat to win, the entire team needs to remain focused on the game, including the bench-warmers. He does this with his athlete-patients.
"I have the player focus on the game rather than on his performance," Lustberg said. "I make him an observer of the game so that he's an active participant."
Academic researchers still appear to be divided on whether the concept is real or not, according to several academic papers.
An study of Wimbledon tennis matches in the mid-1990s found small positive and negative effects of momentum, while another in 2012 found evidence for psychological momentum in hockey, especially right after a fight between opposing players.