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Burnout in competitive and elite athletes
Örebro University, School of Health and Medical Sciences.
2007 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Intensified training regimes and increasing competitive pressure make some athletes leave sports with shattered hopes and dreams. A number of these athletes drop out of sports due to burnout, which is characterized by an enduring experience of emotional and physical exhaustion, reduced sense of accomplishment and devaluation of sport participation as a consequence of prolonged chronic stress. Loss of engagement and diminished motivation also characterize burnout. But burnout is more than just a simple stress reaction, as not all athletes who experience stress burn out. Study I investigates the prevalence of burnout among competitive athletes. The number of athletes showing high levels of burnout was found to be between 1 and 9%. The number of athletes suffering from severe burnout was estimated at 1-2%. Contrary to what has been speculated, burnout was not more common in individual sports than in team sports. Study II investigated the burnout process using a case-study approach. It was found that burnout can evolve with different levels of severity, time perspectives and characteristics. There appears to be a relationship between overtraining syndrome and burnout, and the study gave support to the notion that burnout is the most severe outcome on the training fatigue continuum. Early success might lead to high expectations and an inner pressure to train, which in the three cases made the athletes ignore signs of maladaptation. Performance-based self-esteem appears to be a “driving force” in the burnout process. In Study III the burnout experience was investigated using qualitative interviews. Lack of recovery, “too much sports” and high external demands were described as causes of burnout. A stressful situation with multiple demands from sport, school and social relationships leads to a total overload, which has both physiological and psychological consequences. Critical factors were a unidimensional identity, performance-based self-esteem, an inflexible organization and feelings of entrapment. These restraining factors made the athletes remain in sports despite negative outcomes. Thus the three studies indicate that burnout is a serious problem in competitive and elite sports, that restraining factors offer an explanation for why athletes remain in sport despite negative outcomes, and that striving for self-esteem is crucial in the development of burnout.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Örebro: Örebro universitetsbibliotek , 2007. , 134 p.
Series
Örebro Studies in Sport Sciences, ISSN 1654-7535 ; 1
Keyword [en]
athlete identity, burnout, case-study, elite athletes, overtraining, self-esteem, stress
National Category
Sport and Fitness Sciences
Research subject
Sports Science
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-1737ISBN: 978-91-7668-567-9 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:oru-1737DiVA: diva2:135387
Public defence
2008-01-18, Hörsal G, G-huset, Örebro, 13:00
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2007-12-28 Created: 2007-12-28 Last updated: 2011-05-18Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Prevalence of burnout in competitive adolescent athletes
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Prevalence of burnout in competitive adolescent athletes
2007 (English)In: The Sport psychologist, ISSN 0888-4781, Vol. 21, no 1, 21-37 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This study examined the factorial validity of the Eades Burnout Inventory (EABI) and the prevalence of burnout in adolescent elite athletes and whether burnout is more common in individual sports than in team sports. The EABI was distributed to 980 athletes (402 females and 578 males) in 29 different sports. Confirmatory-factor analyses revealed an acceptable factorial validity for a theoretically supported four-factor model of the EABI. Between 1% and 9% of the athletes displayed elevated burnout scores on these four subscales. The hypothesis of higher prevalence of burnout in individual sports was, however, not supported. Furthermore, no correlation between training load and burnout scores was found. These findings suggest that factors other than training load must be considered when athletes at risk for burnout are investigated.

National Category
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary Sport and Fitness Sciences
Research subject
Sports Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-2868 (URN)
Available from: 2007-12-28 Created: 2007-12-28 Last updated: 2010-11-03Bibliographically approved
2. The process of burnout: A multiple case study of three elite endurance athletes
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The process of burnout: A multiple case study of three elite endurance athletes
Show others...
2007 (English)In: International Journal of Sport Psychology, ISSN 0047-0767, Vol. 38, no 4, 388-416 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The aim of this study was to gain a better understanding of the process of burning out in endurance athletes. The experiences of three elite cross-country skiers who left Their sport due to burnout were explored. Semi-structured interviews were conducted and inductively analyzed. The Athlete Burnout Questionnaire and training logs were used to validate the interviews and to enrich the analysis. The burnout process was found to evolve with different severity and time perspectives in the three cases. Athletic identity and achievement strivings to validate self-esteem were found to be important driving forces in the burnout process. Also, chronic lack of mental and physical recovery as well as early skiing success leading to high expectations comprised common themes in the burnout process.

National Category
Sport and Fitness Sciences
Research subject
Sports Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-2869 (URN)
Available from: 2007-12-28 Created: 2007-12-28 Last updated: 2011-01-13Bibliographically approved
3. A qualitative analysis of burnout in elite Swedish athletes
Open this publication in new window or tab >>A qualitative analysis of burnout in elite Swedish athletes
2008 (English)In: Psychology of Sport And Exercise, ISSN 1469-0292, E-ISSN 1878-5476, Psychology of Sport & Exercise, Vol. 9, no 6, 800-816 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Objective: To extend the understanding of burnout in elite athletes, including personal experiences and perceived antecedents.

Design and Methods: Semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted with 10 Swedish 22- to 26-year-old elite athletes who had quit sport due to burnout. The interview transcripts were inductively analyzed using qualitative content analysis,

Results: The findings support the notion of athlete burnout as a multidimensional syndrome. While stressors like multiple demands. "too much sport," lack of recovery and high expectations were considered primary causes of burnout by the respondents, high motivation, unidimensional athletic identity. self-esteem strivings, high ego goals, negative perfectionist traits and feelings of entrapment were also found to be critical contributors. These restraining factors explained why the athletes continued their participation in sport despite a progressive worsening of their condition, and are therefore potentially crucial in the development of burnout.

Conclusion: Athlete burnout appears to be it complex interaction of multiple stressors, inadequate recovery and frustration from unfulfilled expectations, which is explained partly by maladaptive perfectionist traits and goals. This process is fuelled by a strong drive to validate self-worth, sometimes in conjunction with feelings of entrapment.

National Category
Sport and Fitness Sciences
Research subject
Sports Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-2870 (URN)10.1016/j.psychsport.2007.11.004 (DOI)
Available from: 2007-12-28 Created: 2007-12-28 Last updated: 2011-01-19Bibliographically approved

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