Burnout syndrome in athletes

Burnout syndrome in athletes

Burnout syndrome in athletes

Today’s article is based on the burnout syndrome in athletes. I recently completed a specialization in high performance sports psychology and this topic seems to me of high interest to athletes and coaches.

It is evident to me that most successful athletes are those who show the best skills in managing and controlling potentially stressful situations.

After all what is burnout syndrome?

Burnout syndrome in athletes can be defined as “an internal fire that consumes motivation”.

And what about stress?

Stress is the individual response or reaction to the stressful environmental stimulus or event, characterized by psychological and physiological manifestations.

Responses are determined by the perception of each individual, and the same experience can provide different individual results.

In the sports context, the lack of adequate stress coping strategies and burnout syndrome are limiting factors for the development and performance of athletes.

Burnout in Athletes

In athletes, burnout is considered as a response to excessive chronic stress, being characterized by reduced performance, physical and emotional exhaustion, reduced sense of accomplishment and feeling of devaluation.

Athletes with burnout syndrome have evident characteristics of low levels of enthusiasm and energy, feelings of distress and abandonment, and loss of confidence, low self-esteem, depression and feelings of abandonment.

Successful athletes demonstrate a greater ability to manage and control potentially stressful situations.


Considering one of the major axioms of sport and physical activity psychology – thinking, feeling, acting – it becomes clear that positive thoughts generate positive emotions and positive actions.

Thought interference is critical when talking about attitude development in the athlete.

Choosing what to think, avoiding defiling ideas, and defending those that are constructive is the central pillar for building another key psychological variable – self-confidence.

Self confidence

As the level of self-confidence increases, performance in sport also increases to the optimum. If self-confidence levels continue to rise beyond the optimal point, the performance level will begin to decline.

Athletes with burnout syndrome have low self-confidence levels:

  • are so afraid of failure that they refuse to participate or act without conviction;
  • identify themselves as losers;
  • They firmly believe that no matter how much they train they will continue to do things wrong;
  • have high levels of anxiety and low levels of concentration;
  • There is a high risk of sports abandonment.


In order to identify early stressors and increased vulnerability to burnout, athletes need to be monitored throughout a competitive season.

Equally important is the need to identify strategies used by athletes to cope with stress so that specific preventive and intervention programs for athletes are outlined.

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