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Overtraining, and Burnout in Child and Adolescent Athletes. Pediatrics

Exercise and sports behavior has been an area of vigorous research interest. Athletes and people who compete at a high level of physical exercise are usually habituated to intense levels of activity for over a prolonged period of time. However, there is hesitation to term it as a psychological disorder or a disorder associated with characteristic patterns of psychological disturbance. People with very high levels of athletic activities may be high achievers who participated in these activities with intense physical work due to many reasons, but the most important is their sense of achievement.

Many of them feel that these activities contributed to their psychological well-being and their emotional stability. A closer examination of their exercise patterns happened to be adaptive and hence has been contemplated to be contributing to the overall psychological functioning. Investigation into their lifestyles revealed that those revolved about their athletic or physical exercise activities, and many of them had disciplined, inflexible, and well-ordered routine.

To be able to maintain such routines, these individuals rigidly followed a regimented running programme and often subordinated other aspects of their life such as diet, occupation, and socializing to their running.

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The question remains, whether this obligatory pattern of excessive exercise and physical activity have any detrimental effects on these people with high athletic activity. In this assignment, current research will be reviewed to find out the answer of this question. Overtraining or burnout is commonly regarded as a generalised stress response to a prolonged period of overload.

Thus, overtraining can be defined as “an abnormal extension of the training process culminating in a state of staleness” (Weinberg and Gould, 1999).

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Many other terms have been used to denote this syndrome. These include staleness, burnout and failing adaptation (Hooper et al. , 1993). Tenenbaum et al. (2003) recently suggested as theoretical model of this condition (Tenenbaum et al. , 2003). Generally speaking, overtraining can be attributed to a combination of high-intensity training at excessive levels and provision of inadequate rest or insufficient time for recovery.

There have been arguments as to whether a single, universally agreeable diagnostic index of burnout is possible, case studies have revealed a host of physiological and psychological symptoms. Physiologically overtraining may manifest signs of depressed immune function leading to an increased incidence of upper respiratory tract infections. The physiology alters so that there are increases in resting heart rate. Endocrinologically, there may be decreases in testosterone levels and increases in cortisol concentration.

In some individuals, there may be decreases in maximal blood lactate concentration, which is otherwise expected to be high. All these may culminate into deterioration in athletic performance of the affected person, but there may be psychological symptoms which may include include mood disturbances, feelings of chronic fatigue, loss of appetite, repetitive loading injuries, and quite often insomnia (Cashmore, 2002). The prevalence of this syndrome can be estimated from Morgan (2000) that over 50% of both male and female marathon runners have at least sometimes suffered from burnout in some time.

As a paradox, burned out athletes tend to try harder and perform increasingly worse. There are many factors associated with this phenomenon. Literature has revealed that these factors may include “inadequate recovery time between bouts of training, prolonged or over-intense training regimes, personal problems and inadequate coping resources” (Weinberg and Gould, 1999). Morgan (2000) also claimed that mood disturbance in these individuals may be etiologically related to burnout, although there have been disputes against this claim.

In general, it has been shown that people who exercise vigorously tend to suffer from symptoms of mood changes, irritability, restlessness, insomnia, lack of appetite, or feelings of guilt. Bill Norris, the principal trainer on the American Tennis Professionals’ tennis tour, observed recently that problems of injury and burnout stem from a combination of the “never-ending pursuit of achievement and the inability of coaches to understand that the human body can only take so much for so long” (cited in Evans, 2002, p. 24).

Consequently excessive stress is an important initiating event for psychological, emotional, and physical withdrawal from a formerly enjoyable sport. As Gould et al. (2002) concurs exercise or sport burnout can be defined as the “manifestation or consequence of the situational, cognitive, behavioural, and physiologic components of excessive stress” (Gould et al. 2002). This phenomenon has been embodied most strikingly in teenage sports performers or athletes, who have spectacular and sudden rise with similarly abrupt and premature decline.

Many young tennis prodigies can be used as examples to illustrate this phenomenon, and even some of them despite being prolific achievers could not go to the extent that they would have. Moreover, some of them fell prey of recurring back or neck problems or other chronic injuries. History suggests that a combination of parental pressure and coaching tyranny was operational in leading to halt of many promising careers in sporting (Gould et al. 2002). There had been attempts to explain the phenomenon of sports burnout through different theoretical framework.

The progression of burnout has been presumed to be due to pressure of training and development of competitive approaches. This demand is interpreted by the athletes’ psyche in a different manner, and some indeed end up seeing it as a threatening situation. If the demand is perceived to be threatening, the youth usually demonstrates physiological responses, which are characterised by fatigue or insomnia. In the next state, these physiological responses lead to strategies for coping, which in turn may manifest as diminishing levels of competitive performance.

This may lead to interpersonal problems of the affected individuals and failure of coping may lead to complete withdrawal from sport or any other athletic activity. It has been argued that it is difficult to generalize since to cause this, many subjective factors, such as, self-esteem, ambition, and personal anxiety may play important roles. Lonsdale et al. (2009) had examined the potential factors contributing to the psychological impacts of sports burnout. They used self-determination theory by employing a cross-sectional design with the primary aim to investigate the behavioral regulations and athlete burnout.

It has been shown that less self-determined motives showing positive associations and more self-determined motives showing negative correlations with burnout. Competence, autonomy, self-determined motivation, exhaustion, devaluation, reduced accomplishment, and global burnout play important roles in exercise and sports burnout (Lonsdale et al. , 2009). This means, personality and factors related to motivation influence the different stages of burnout process. Some authors have identified training stress as the determinant of the burnout process.

This is a physical characteristic of the burnout process. This occurs due to the fact the body cannot tolerate the physical strain anymore. As an additive, competition also plays important roles. Although in some cases, some of the young people are grown up enough to cope up with the stressors associated with higher level of competition, in many cases, the young competitors experience a psychophysiological malfunction once their bodies fail to respond positively to training. This would affect their mental orientation leading to incapability of meeting the demands placed on their bodies.

Brenner et al. (2007) describes burnout syndrome as a series of psychological, physiologic, and hormonal changes that may result in decreased sports performance. The common manifestations have been described as chronic muscle and joint pain, changes in the personality, resting tachycardia, and decreased performance in sports. This is commonly associated with fatigue manifested by lack of enthusiasm about practice or competition. The athlete may also encounter immense difficulty in completing the normal routines of an athlete.

Burnout in sports has been recognised as a serious sequel of the syndrome of overtraining. Although this is a serious problem, it can be prevented. Usually, the athletes are encouraged to participate and practice different kinds of sports rather than one particular type of activity. Sometimes these may be prevented though various training adjustment approaches. It has been seen that steps to keep workouts interesting with age-appropriate games and training may prevent it. There should be time off from structured or organised sports at least 1 to 2 days per week, to allow the body and mind to rest.

This time may be utilised in other activities. The trainer must allow longer scheduled breaks from training and competition every 2 to 3 months, but during this time, he must focus on other activities involved with cross training so his loss of skill and level of conditioning does not deteriorate (Brenner et al. , 2007). Conclusion The detrimental effects of high level exercise are numerous. There is risk of over-use injury, potential for excessive weight loss, mood disturbance, psychological burnout, eating disorders, depression, and low level of psychological wellbeing.

Recently, there has been a growth of research interest in the areas of personal problems. These include stress and burnout afflicting people involved in sport and exercise. Research also suggests that not infrequently exercise habit can have adverse consequences. For certain vulnerable population practicing athletics, sports, and physical activities, exercise is associated with specific psychopathologies. Furthermore, a variety of physiological hazards to health have been demonstrated to be associated with habitual physical activity and/or sport.

These include metabolic abnormalities, such as, hypothermia in swimmers or dehydration in marathon runners; disorders of hemapoeisis, such as, anemia in endurance athletes and cardiac problems, such as, arrhythmia. All these may result from prolonged vigorous athletic activity. On the contrary, it has long been known that intensive training regimens do not always enhance athletic performance. More precisely, when the nature, intensity and/or frequency of athletic training exceed the body’s adaptive capacity and lead to a deterioration in sport performance, then the condition is known as burnout or overtraining.

Modern research has suggested many changes. Reference List Brenner, JS. and the Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness Overuse Injuries (2007). Overtraining, and Burnout in Child and Adolescent Athletes. Pediatrics; 119: 1242 1245. Cashmore, E. (2002). Sport psychology: The key concepts. London: Routledge Evans, R. (2002). “Breaking point”. The Sunday Times, 19 May, p. 24 (Sport). Gould, D. , Damarjian, N. , and Greenleaf, C. (2002). Imagery training for peak performance. In J. L. Van Raalte and B. W. Brewer (Eds. ), Exploring sport and exercise psychology (2nd ed. , pp. 49–74).

Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Hooper, S. L, Traeger Mackinnon, L, Gordon, R. D. , and Bachmann, A W. (1993). Hormonal responses of elite swimmers to overtraining. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 25, 741–747. Lonsdale, C. , Hodge, K. , and Rose, E. , (2009). Athlete burnout in elite sport: A self determination perspective. J Sports Sci; 27(8): 785-95. Morgan, W. P. (2000). Psychological factors associated with distance running and the marathon. In D. T. Pedloe (Ed. ), Marathon medicine (pp. 293–310). London: The Royal Society of Medicine Press. Tenenbaum, G. , Jones, C. M. , K

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Overtraining, and Burnout in Child and Adolescent Athletes. Pediatrics. (2016, Jul 31). Retrieved from

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