A Measure of Burnout in Current NCAA Student-Athletes


  • Nick E. Giusti, M.D. University of Kansas Health System
  • Seth L. Carder, M.D.
  • Megan Wolf, M.D.
  • Lisa Vopat, M.D.
  • Jordan Baker
  • Armin Tarakemeh
  • Kelly Bal, M.D.
  • Jeffrey Randall, M.D.
  • Bryan G. Vopat, M.D.




Introduction. The prevalence of athletes who specialize in sports has increased in recent years. Substantial literature on youth sports has linked early sport specialization to negative consequences, such as burnout and injury. However, empirical evidence comparing rates of burnout and specialization in NCAA athletes is limited. The purpose of this study was to survey current NCAA Division I student-athletes to compare levels of burnout to sex, year of NCAA eligibility, and age at the beginning of sport specialization.

Methods. A self-reported survey was distributed to student-athletes at two NCAA Division I institutions, which included demographics, sport specialization history, injury history, and the Athlete Burnout Questionnaire. Results from the three measures of the Athlete Burnout Questionnaire (reduced sense of accomplishment, exhaustion, sport devaluation) were compared to sex, year of NCAA eligibility, age of beginning sport specialization, and injury history.

Results. A total of 267 athletes (95 males and 172 females) completed the survey. Of those, 156 (58.4%) were in their first or second year of NCAA eligibility, and 111 (41.6%) were in their third, fourth, or fifth year. Of the total, 121 (46.4%) reported specializing before the age of 15, and 140 (53.6%) specialized at age 16 or older. Females reported significantly higher levels of exhaustion than males (Difference of means (M) = 0.43, 95% confidence interval (CI) = [0.20, 0.66], p < 0.01). Athletes in their third, fourth, or fifth year of eligibility reported significantly higher levels of sport devaluation (M = 0.27, 95% CI = [0.05, 0.48], p < 0.05) than athletes in their first or second year. Athletes who specialized before age 15 did not report significantly higher levels of burnout than athletes who specialized at age 16 or later. In total, 203 athletes (77.2%) reported experiencing any injury. Athletes who reported a history of experiencing any injury demonstrated significantly higher feelings of reduced sense of accomplishment than athletes with no injury history (Difference of means (M) = 0.24, 95% confidence interval (CI) = [0.03, 0.45], p < 0.05).

Conclusions. Athletes were more likely to experience elevated levels of burnout if they reported female sex, older NCAA eligibility, or a past injury history. However, athletes were not more likely to experience increased burnout based on age of beginning specialization. The results demonstrated a need to address burnout in athletes following injury and to be aware that females and older athletes are more prone to burnout.


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Original Research

How to Cite

Giusti, N., Carder, S., Wolf, M., Vopat, L., Baker, J., Tarakemeh, A., Bal, K., Randall, J., & Vopat, B. (2022). A Measure of Burnout in Current NCAA Student-Athletes . Kansas Journal of Medicine, 15(3), 325-330. https://doi.org/10.17161/kjm.vol15.17784