Athletic Burnout in expert sport

Engagement in sport provides an excellent source of pleasure for the majority of professional athletes and enhances the general well-being of individuals. Nevertheless, in today’s multi-million dollar sport industry, there is a considerable amount of pressure for an athlete to execute and succeed in expert sport (Hackfort & & Huang, 2005). They are needed to keep their optimum physical condition in order to carry out to their greatest ability, and numerous specialists understand the value of training hard and constantly working at their abilities to enhance them.

In addition to excelling in physical condition, mental strength and determination are qualities that are instilled in professional athletes at a young age to reduce mental barriers that might limit their performance. However, if a professional athlete is not able to balance multiple physical and psychological stress factors at equilibrium, many effects might develop which avoids athletes from functioning at a peak state. As a repercussion to this extended chronic stress, the athlete suffers from burnout (Schaufeli & & Buunk, 2003).

Specifying Burnout

Athletic burnout is acknowledged as a growing mental problem that is increasingly ending up being a major consider adversely impacting the efficiency of professional athletes throughout a broad spectrum of sporting disciplines. Burnout is a psycho-physiological reaction that is characterized by physical and psychological fatigue triggered by excessive and perpetuating tension (Silva, 1990; Dale and Weinberg, 1990). It happens when athletes feel overwhelmed and are not able to fulfill continuous needs resulting in decreased sport performance, a decreased sense of accomplishment, and a decrease in participation (Silva, 1990; Dale and Weinberg, 1990; Gustafsson, 2007).

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This internal response normally inflicts athletes that ineffectively attempt to fulfill excessive training and competitive needs through high inspiration and castle in the airs (Silva, 1990). Once impacted, this stress reaction triggers burned-out professional athletes to experience decreased interest and a reduction of interest and enjoyment in sports they previously loved, triggering them to leave (Cresswell & & Eklund, 2003).

Depression, feelings of helplessness, and social withdrawal are few of many affective, cognitive, and behavioural consequences of burn out (Schaufeli & Enzmann, 1998). Burnout consists of multiple factors that contribute to its occurrence, thus it is found to be multidimensional (Tenebaum, Jones, Kitsantas, Sacks, & Berwick, 2003). While social interactions and training pose as major factors in burnout, burnout is also characterized by failure in adapting to stressful situations (Raedeke & Smith, 2004). Burnout is noted to be an ongoing, latent process that results in unsuccessful attempts of diminishing stress. (Silva, 1990). Stress is caused by social interactions, sport performances, physical demands, and internal and external demands; internal being unrealistic goals set by the athlete, and external demands being conflicts with others (Tenebaum, Jones, Kitsantas, Sacks, & Berwick, 2003). However, not all athletes who experience stress will burn out.

Effects of Burnout

Burnout is a complex phenomenon that manifests over a prolonged period of time (Smith, 2007). Because of the detrimental effects burnout has on an athlete’s performance and overall well-being, early detection is crucial (Smith, 2007). Acknowledging and addressing early symptoms can prevent burnout as well as major breakdowns. Symptoms include increased anxiety, depression, helplessness, sense of failure, inability to concentrate, chronic fatigue, insomnia, hyperactivity, abandonment of activities, and boredom (Schaufeli & Enzman, 1998). Although there are many symptoms of burnout, a person usually does not show all of them (Burisch, 2006).

Prevention and Intervention

Strategies for preventing burnout emphasize techniques that help athletes control stress and adjust to the conditions of sport participation (Coakley, 1992). This includes focusing training on improving all critical capacities which will increase the overall stress tolerance, and eliminating psychological and social stressors (Kellman, 2010; Hooper & Mackinnon, 1995). The basic assumption understood by psychologists is that there is a correlation between recovery and stress; as stress increases, increased recovery time is necessary (Kellman, 2010). However, burnout is amongst the repercussions that may form when there is an imbalancement between these two variables. Therefore to prevent burnout, athletes must learn to manage stress, set boundaries to prevent overextending, adopt healthy lifestyle habits, incorporate a balanced diet, and get proper exercise.

When action is not taken to prevent burnout and the athlete is pushed beyond their limit, it is important to take the necessary steps for the athlete to recover. The amount of time needed for an athlete to recover from burnout depends on several variables including the severity of the burnout, amount of social support given to the athlete, and the individual’s capacity to recover with the help of professional medical support such as a sports psychologist, nutritionist, and other personnel (Lehmann, Foster, Gastmann, Keizer, & Steinacker, 1999). Seeking medical and social support, cutting back on commitments, and re-evaluating priorities are crucial in order for an athlete to fully recover.

Psychotherapeutic approaches such as group therapies that are focused on changing the ways in which an individual perceives and deals with situations are also recommended (Salmela-Aro et al., 2004). Intervention programs have about 80% success rate with depreciating burnout, and may include online counselling, cognitive behaviour training, relaxation techniques, psycho-social skill training, communication training, and relaxation training (Awa, Plaumann, and Walter, 2009). However, the most effective way to combat burnout is to postpone the activity, or take time off, in order to fully improve the state of mind and overall well-being of the individual (Kellman, 2010).


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