If you’re looking for the latest statistics on athlete burnout, then we’ve got you covered.
You’ve probably heard the saying, “Exhaustion is the enemy of performance.” But what do you really know about athlete burnout? How do you know if you’re at risk?
It can be really tough to find the information you need when you’re trying to learn more about how to prevent athlete burnout. There are a lot of different factors that can contribute to this phenomenon, but there are also many ways to help prevent and treat it.
We’ve gathered together a comprehensive list of athlete burnout statistics that show just how prevalent and serious an issue athlete burnout is. This will also give you a good idea of what causes athlete burnout, and what steps you can take to prevent it from happening in your life.
These numbers will help you put things into perspective and give you an idea of how big this problem really is. It’s not just limited to one sport or type of athlete—it’s everywhere! And these numbers prove it.
How Common is Burnout in Athletes?
1. 10% of athletes experience regular burnout symptoms
The BASES Expert statement covering burnout in sport examines a series of reviews of athletes experiencing burnout systems over the last two decades.
According to the statement, athletes suffering from burnout regularly experience compromised physical and psychological wellbeing, as well as an increased risk of leaving the sport for good.
Though few studies have highlighted burnout prevalence directly, the research reveals up to 10% of athletes might suffer from moderate levels of burnout symptoms on a regular basis.
The review also suggests coaches and teachers interacting with athletes often experience higher levels of burnout too. Around 15% of teachers experience some level of burnout.
2. Around 1-2% of athletes experience regular severe symptoms of burnout
Although researchers suggest the prevalence of burnout among athletes is difficult to establish, due to a low number of people willing to discuss their mental health conditions, the problem is growing increasingly common. Estimates from a study published in Research Gate found that 1-11% of athletes experience burnout symptoms regularly.
The report also found that between 1-2% of athletes experience severe symptoms of burnout on a regular basis, and this number is considered to be on the rise.
According to the researchers, it’s important to note that there are three types of stressors that contribute to burnout for any athlete, these include physiological, psychological, and social factors.
3. 42% of elite athletes meet the criteria for at least one mental disorder
(Psychology of Sport and Exercise)
Studies looking at the degree of stress and mental health issues faced by elite athletes in current competitions reveal that today’s sporting superstars are under significant strain.
According to the report, which looked at 186 Canadian athletes training for the Olympics, 42% of athletes met the criteria for one or mental disorder. 18.8% reported anxiety symptoms, while 9% were at risk of eating disorders.
A further 31.7% of the study’s athletes reported symptoms related to depression. All of these mental health concerns can also contribute to the risk of overall mental burnout in athletes.
Which Athletes Experience Burnout the Most?
4. Athletes who fixate on their mistakes are more likely to burnout
(University of Essex)
A study led by the University of Essex looked at responses from over 250 sportspeople across team and individual sports, to understand trends in burnout.
The report discovered concerns about perfectionism, obsessive reaction to failure, and fixating on mistakes were more likely to exacerbate the risk of burnout.
Correlational analyses found perfectionist and obsessive behavior positively correlated to higher symptoms of burnout including exhaustion, a reduced sense of accomplishment, and a lower sense of appreciation of their sport.
The researchers hope their work will lead to better interventions to assist athletes in reducing their risk of burnout. These interventions might include strategies like mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy for athletes deemed to be hyper-critical of themselves.
5. About half of female athletes are struggling with fatigue, anxiety, and burnout
A report from WHISPA, a group dedicated to researching women’s health in sports, found that around half of athletes are struggling with burnout, anxiety, and stress.
What’s more, 80% of female athletes considered to be “elite” in their field report social media as being the number one source of pressure for them to conform to traditional ideas around body image.
In the report, a further 73% of the athletes surveyed said that the pressure to portray a specific image or physical appearance is having a direct impact on their health too. Many of the respondents cited suffering from interruptions in their menstrual cycle and disordered eating practices.
A total of 59% of the respondents in the study said social media was a source of performance-related pressure leading to potential burnout. This indicates the pressure from social media is higher than that experienced from coaches.
6. 35% of professional athletes experience mental health problems
(Athletes for Hope)
The non-profit organization Athletes for Hope conducted a study into the mental health status of professional athletes.
According to the report, 35% of athletes considered to be professionals experience issues with mental health, which include problems with depression, burnout, and anxiety, as well as eating disorders.
The report also notes that although these issues are common among many athletes, they’re not discussed by any of the most significant athletes in the field. It’s even more common for players at the top of their field to avoid discussing mental health conditions.
7. Up to 30% of women and 25% of men have anxiety and stress issues among student atheletes
Anxiety, stress, and other mental health symptoms are common in athletes suffering from burnout and can sometimes lead to further unwanted side effects.
According to a report from ACSM, the high levels of stress already impacting students can contribute to a higher risk of burnout and associated stress symptoms among men and women.
According to the review, around 30% of women and 25% of men who are student athletes report suffering from anxiety. However, only 10% of college athletes with mental health conditions, including symptoms of burnout will seek help from a mental health professional.
8. By age 13 up to 70% of children have dropped out of organized sports
Studies from the Pediatrics Journal indicate that burnout and feelings of fatigue towards sporting, in general, could be the reason many children avoid continuing their experiences with organized sports. Around 70% of children drop out of a sporting club or activity by the age of 13.
The reports suggest that as people continue to compete more intensely in sports, mental health issues can begin to develop. Before the pandemic, 20% of college athletes experienced major symptoms of depression.
Anxiety and depression levels for those competing at international and national levels range between 20 and 45%.
9. Athletes training in a single sport are at greater risk of injury
Although athlete burnout is commonly linked to symptoms of poor mental health and stress, physical injury is a common concern too. One report published in the Journal of Pediatrics highlights athletes who train consistently in a single sport are more likely to be injured compared to those who play in multiple sports.
Furthermore, other studies within the Journal of Pediatrics have revealed that injury can also lead to mental health conditions which increase the risk of burnout, low motivation, and laziness. Injury is commonly linked to symptoms of depression.
10. Esports athletes face the same level of mental stress as other athletes
(University of Winchester)
The first study carried out to look at potential burnout levels in esports athletes had some interesting results.
Conducted via a collaboration between the Universities of Chichester and Winchester, the report revealed the incidence of mental health issues is just as prevalent in esports as it is in athletes in other professional sports.
The study, looking at a total of 313 gamers performing at a professional level found these participants experienced similar stress levels, sleep problems, and anxiety issues as those in physical sports. However, the causes of mental stress and burnout did differ from the most common causes for traditional athletes.
For instance, the high demand for fine motor skill coordination was a significant cause of stress for many of the athletes in the study.
What Causes Athlete Burnout?
11. 66% of student athletes believe they’ve suffered as a result of overtraining
(Sport Science Institute)
Research indicates there are a number of factors contributing to burnout in student athletes.
The report suggests around 72% of athletes experience feelings of “staleness” when taking part in training sessions, which can lead to feelings of exhaustion and fatigue. A further 66% of student athletes felt they have experienced issues with overtraining.
A total of 47% of the student athletes surveyed said they felt as though they had experienced burnout at some point during their college career.
The researchers note that because the symptoms of burnout can often match the feelings of depression, many students aren’t always sure if they’re experiencing burnout or not.
12. Training factors account for 81% of burnout risk
(Frontiers in Psychology)
A report and survey conducted by Lin Ling and published in the Frontiers of Psychology looked at the main factors which influence psychological fatigue and burnout in athletes.
The study discovered that 81% of the burnout risk for athletes was influenced by training factors, while 75% said the biggest influencing factor was their environment.
Social support factors were another major concern for athletes, with 52% of respondents stating lack of support contributed to their stress and mental health issues. 48% of athletes also cited personal cognitive issues as a specific problem.
When asked which training factors might contribute to burnout risk, the main reason given was the monotony and dullness of training, followed by the training load.
13. The pandemic didn’t reduce stress or burnout levels for athletes
A study into the impact of the pandemic on burnout levels among athletes revealed time spent away from competition during the pandemic wasn’t on par with a true “rest”.
The study gave questionnaires to 92 athletes asking about how athletes used the time during the pandemic, and how they felt when it came to symptoms of burnout.
According to the study, no significant differences in stress or burnout were identified, suggesting the suspension period didn’t have a significant impact on feelings of burnout.
What Reduces the Risk of Athlete Burnout?
14. Social support can reduce the risk of athlete burnout
A report published in the Frontiers of Psychology, examining previous studies into the well-being and mental health of athletes, found social support could reduce or even prevent a high risk of athlete burnout.
According to the study, social support was a significant factor in improving an athlete’s mental toughness and ability to withstand stress.
The review drew attention to the discovery of previous researchers too, highlighting that mental toughness can impact competition outcomes by more than 50%. The researchers suggest mental health and social support levels should be monitored in athletes to help them minimize the risk of fatigue and burnout.
15. Team sports are less likely to cause burnout than individual sports
A study into children in the United States found that participating in team-focused sports is generally better for younger athletes’ mental health than individual sports. The researchers found that participating in team sports were less likely to lead to burnout, and improved social bonding.
The report also found that participation in certain kinds of individual sports like tennis and wrestling may also be associated with greater mental health difficulties and stress levels than not engaging in a sport at all. Although certain children are more likely to thrive in individual athletic environments.
16. The risk of burnout for NCAA Administrators is currently at 35.2%
(Athlete Viewpoint and Athletic Director U)
It’s not just the athletes themselves in competitive sporting environments who suffer from a higher risk of burnout. According to a report by the Athlete Viewpoint and Athletic Director U, many administrators in the NCAA landscape are suffering from significant levels of exhaustion and stress.
The study found the risk factor for any collegiate administrator to begin disengaging with their work was around 61.2%. At the same time, the risk of exhaustion for the same group was measured at 85.2%. In total, the percentage of administrators considered to be at significant risk of burnout was 35.2%.
Notably, the exhaustion rate for males and females were both extremely high in this area.
17. Coping methods account for 66% of the severity of burnout symptoms
A review of papers covering the impact of psychological resilience and coping methods on burnout factors found that the strategies athletes use to handle stress have a direct influence on how significant the symptoms of burnout might be.
According to the report, which looked at 483 active athletes with a sports psychological resilience questionnaire, coping methods account for 66% of the total effect of burnout and stress in sports.
Hopefully, this article has given you a better understanding of what athlete burnout is and why it’s such an important issue.
With that in mind, there are 4 key things you can do to prevent burnout from happening in the first place:
- Make sure your workload is manageable
- Establish solid boundaries with your coach or team
- Get enough rest and relaxation
- Avoid putting too much pressure on yourself.
Finally, it’s important to remember that no one goes through an entire career without experiencing some sort of burnout at some point – but it can be mitigated by taking the right steps to prevent it from happening in the first place. So please keep these tips in mind as you continue to pursue your dreams.
Thank you for reading!