Sport specialization has been linked to multiple negative health related outcomes including increased injury risk and sport attrition, yet a gap remains in our understanding of potential psychological outcomes of early specialization (≤ age 12). The current study evaluated the associations between retrospective athlete reports of sport specialization and both retroactive and current psychological health outcomes. Early specializers reported significantly higher levels of multiple maladaptive psychological outcomes (e.g., global athlete burnout, emotional and physical exhaustion, sport devaluation, amotivation). Overall, findings suggest that specialization environment factors, in addition to the age of specialization, are potentially critical factors in determining health and well-being outcomes. Findings support prominent position statements suggesting early specialization may be associated with increased health risks. Study findings may also inform the development of guidelines and recommendations to aid parents, coaches, and athletes in positively impacting athlete psychosocial outcomes.
Exploring Early Sport Specialization: Associations With Psychosocial Outcomes
Shelby Waldron, J.D. DeFreese, Brian Pietrosimone, Johna Register-Mihalik, and Nikki Barczak
Athlete Resilience Trajectories Across Competitive Training: The Influence of Physical and Psychological Stress
Nikki E. Barczak-Scarboro, Emily Kroshus, Brett Pexa, Johna K. Register Mihalik, and J.D. DeFreese
Competitive sport involves physical and psychological stressors, such as training load and stress perceptions, that athletes must adapt to in order to maintain health and performance. Psychological resilience, one’s capacity to equilibrate or adapt affective and behavioral responses to adverse physical or emotional experiences, is an important topic in athlete training and performance. The study purpose was to investigate associations of training load and perceived sport stress with athlete psychological resilience trajectories. Sixty-one collegiate club athletes (30 females and 31 males) completed self-reported surveys over 6 weeks of training. Athletes significantly differed in resilience at the beginning of competitive training. Baseline resilience differences were associated with resilience trajectories. Perceived stress and training load were negatively associated with resilience. Physical and psychological stressors had a small but statistically significant impact on resilience across weeks of competitive training, indicating that both types of stressors should be monitored to maintain athlete resilience.
Effects of College Athlete Life Stressors on Baseline Concussion Measures
J.D. DeFreese, Michael J. Baum, Julianne D. Schmidt, Benjamin M. Goerger, Nikki Barczak, Kevin M. Guskiewicz, and Jason P. Mihalik
Context: Concussion baseline testing helps injury evaluation by allowing postinjury comparisons to preinjury measures. To facilitate best practice, common neurocognitive, balance, and symptom report metrics used in concussion baseline testing merit examination relative to participant life stressors. Objective: The purpose of this study was to determine if life stressors are associated with college athlete neurocognitive function, postural control, and symptom scores at preseason baseline assessment. Design: All study variables were collected in a single laboratory session where athletes completed valid and reliable psychometrics as well as a computerized neurocognitive and balance assessments. Setting: Sports medicine research center on an American university campus. Participants: A convenience sample of 123 college student-athletes: 47 females (age = 18.9 [4.3] y) and 76 males (age = 19.4 [1.6] y). Main Outcome Measures: Participants were categorized into low, moderate, or high life stressors groups using scores from the Social Readjustment Rating Scale-Revised. Dependent variables included outcomes from the CNS Vitals Signs test, the Sensory Organization Test, and the graded symptom checklist indexing neurocognition, balance, and symptom severity, respectfully. Results: One-way analysis of variance revealed that the moderate life stressors group performed significantly worse than the low life stressors group on the baseline verbal memory domain of the CNS Vital Signs (F 2,119 = 3.28; P = .04) only. Conclusion: In the current college athlete sample, few baseline concussion assessment variables were found to be significantly associated with life stressors. Considering the clinical significance of these variables, psychological life stressors may not be a confounding factor in concussion evaluation.