Research on how to recover from athlete burnout is scarce. The current aim is therefore to describe an intervention with an elite shooter suffering from burnout, and the use of mindfulness and Qigong to reestablish sport functioning as well as general well-being. The participant used mindfulness and Qigong exercise on a daily basis. Exercise frequency, exercise time, concentration level and Qigong state were noted daily, and levels of stress, energy and primordial force were self-rated weekly for 20 weeks, and followed up after 30, 40 and 50 weeks. The participant recovered from burnout to a state of general well-being (energy and primordial force changed from weak to strong), and her ability to stay concentrated in a Qigong state changed from weak to strong. Her capacity to shoot high scores was reestablished, even if her shooting endurance was not fully recovered. Mindfulness and Qigong techniques may be useful in the prevention of and recovery from athlete burnout.
John Jouper and Henrik Gustafsson
Stefan Wagnsson, Magnus Lindwall, and Henrik Gustafsson
The purpose of the study was to test longitudinal (2 years across three occasions) associations between sport participation (SP) and self-esteem (SE) across adolescence (10–18 years), addressing the mediating role of perceived sport competence (PSC) from a developmental perspective. Three waves of data were collected from three age cohorts (10–12, 13–15, and 16–18 years) of school-aged youth (N = 1358). The results demonstrate that SP and SE are related across time and that PSC has an important mediating role in this relationship, both from a skill development and a self-enhancement perspective. In the skill development model, the mediating role of PSC was significantly stronger in the youngest cohort whereas the effect of PSC on subsequent SP in the self-enhancement model was significantly stronger in the 13–15 age group compared with the youngest age group.
Sandrine Isoard-Gautheur, Emma Guillet-Descas, and Henrik Gustafsson
The negative feelings that are part of burnout syndrome may prompt athletes to drop out of their sport. The objective of the current study was therefore to examine the influence of athlete burnout profiles on playing status 6 years later. The participants of this study were 458 boys and girls between 14 and 18 years old (M = 15.44; SD = .95) enrolled in elite handball training centers. Cluster analysis on athlete burnout and multinomial logistic regressions on the playing status were conducted. The results suggest that those individuals with a “higher burnout” profile at Time 1 were more likely to have stopped playing handball 6 years later. It therefore seems important to develop strategies to prevent burnout in young athletes enrolled in elite training structures and to promote long-term engagement and well-being in elite sporting activity.
Erik Lundkvist, Henrik Gustafsson, Paul Davis, and Peter Hassmén
The aims of this study were to (a) examine the associations between workaholism and work-related exhaustion and (b) examine associations between work–home/ home–work interference and work-related exhaustion in 261 Swedish coaches. Quantile regression showed that workaholism is only associated with exhaustion for coaches who score high on exhaustion, that negative work–home interference has a stronger association with exhaustion than negative home–work interference, and that the coaches on a mean level scored low on all measured constructs. In addition, coaches in the higher percentiles have a higher risk for burnout. Our results highlight the importance of studying coach exhaustion with respect to aspects that extend beyond the sports life.
Marcus Börjesson, Carolina Lundqvist, Henrik Gustafsson, and Paul Davis
The purpose of the study was to investigate the influence of flotation REST upon skilled and less skilled golfers’ anxiety in terms of physiological indicators of stress, self-rated anxiety scores, muscle tension, and the effect on golf putting. Prior to performing the putting task participants underwent a treatment of flotation REST or a period of resting in an armchair. Participants completed both treatments in a randomized order with a two-week interval. The results showed that both flotation REST and the armchair treatment reduced systolic blood pressure and heart rate, with no differences between treatments or athlete skill levels. No significant differences between treatments were revealed regarding self-ratings, level of muscle tension or putting precision. The results indicate that flotation REST may be useful for reducing negative symptoms related to stress and anxiety in general; however, no support for direct positive effects on golf performance were found.
Henrik Gustafsson, Therése Skoog, Paul Davis, Göran Kenttä, and Peter Haberl
The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between dispositional mindfulness and burnout and whether this relationship is mediated by perceived stress, negative affect, and positive affect in elite junior athletes. Participants were 233 (123 males and 107 females) adolescent athletes, ranging in age from 15–19 years (M = 17.50; SD = 1.08). Bivariate correlations revealed that mindfulness had a significant negative relationship with both perceived stress and burnout. To investigate mediation, we employed nonparametric bootstrapping analyses. These analyses indicated that positive affect fully mediated links between mindfulness and sport devaluation. Further, positive affect and negative affect partially mediated the relationships between mindfulness and physical/emotional exhaustion, as well as between mindfulness and reduced sense of accomplishment. The results point toward mindfulness being negatively related to burnout in athletes and highlight the role of positive affect. Future research should investigate the longitudinal effect of dispositional mindfulness on stress and burnout.
Ralph Appleby, Paul Davis, Louise Davis, and Henrik Gustafsson
Perceptions of teammates and training load have been shown to influence athletes’ physical and psychological health; however, limited research has investigated these factors in relation to burnout. Athletes (N = 140) from a variety of competitive team sports, ranging in level from regional to professional, completed questionnaires measuring individual burnout, perceptions of teammates’ burnout, and training hours per week on two occasions separated by three months. After controlling for burnout at time one, training hours were associated with athletes’ burnout and perceptions of teammates’ burnout at time two. Multilevel modeling indicated actual team burnout (i.e., the average burnout score of the individual athletes in a team) and perceived team burnout were associated with individual’s own burnout. The findings highlight that burnout is dynamic and relates to physiological stressors associated with training and psychological perceptions of teammates’ burnout. Future research directions exploring potential social influences on athlete burnout are presented.
Henrik Gustafsson, Göran Kenttä, Peter Hassmén, and Carolina Lundqvist
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.
Daniel J. Madigan, Henrik Gustafsson, Andrew P. Hill, Kathleen T. Mellano, Christine E. Pacewicz, Thomas D. Raedeke, and Alan L. Smith
The present editorial provides a series of perspectives on the future of burnout in sport. Specifically, for the first time, seven burnout researchers have offered their opinions and suggestions for how, as a field, we can progress our understanding of this important topic. A broad range of ideas are discussed, including the relevance of the social context, the value of theory and collaboration, and the use of public health frameworks in future work. It is hoped that these perspectives will help stimulate debate, reinforce and renew priorities, and guide research in this area over the coming years.
Markus Gerber, Simon Best, Fabienne Meerstetter, Sandrine Isoard-Gautheur, Henrik Gustafsson, Renzo Bianchi, Daniel J. Madigan, Flora Colledge, Sebastian Ludyga, Edith Holsboer-Trachsler, and Serge Brand
Few studies have examined the association between sleep and burnout symptoms in elite athletes. We recruited 257 young elite athletes (M age = 16.8 years) from Swiss Olympic partner schools. Of these, 197 were reassessed 6 months later. Based on the first assessment, 24 participants with clinically relevant burnout symptoms volunteered to participate in a polysomnographic examination and were compared with 26 (matched) healthy controls. Between 12% and 14% of young elite athletes reported burnout symptoms of potential clinical relevance, whereas 4–11% reported clinically relevant insomnia symptoms. Athletes with clinically relevant burnout symptoms reported significantly more insomnia symptoms, more dysfunctional sleep-related cognitions, and spent less time in bed during weeknights (p < .05). However, no significant differences were found for objective sleep parameters. A cross-lagged panel analysis showed that burnout positively predicted self-reported insomnia symptoms. Cognitive-behavioral interventions to treat dysfunctional sleep-related cognitions might be a promising measure to reduce subjective sleep complaints among young elite athletes.