Article written by Annie Skidmore- BSc Sport & Exercise Science Student
High training demands coupled with intense competitions can cause burnout in the youth athlete. If the athlete is in a constant state of fatigue from overtraining their body will not be able to function normally or perform to their best ability. It is therefore vital that training demands, and rate of perceived exertion are monitored to prevent overtraining and burnout specifically in youth athletes.
WHAT IS BURNOUT?
Burnout is when the athlete is both physically and mentally fatigued. They have pushed themselves beyond their limits meaning they are unable to perform at their best. It has been shown that the fear of failure in youth athlete is related to burnout . Therefore, athletes need to accept that they will have periods of highs and lows when performing but focusing on failure will only exaggerate their chances of fatigue and underperformance.
Overuse is one of the most common cause of injury in teenage athletes and this overtraining can be increased by pressure from parents to compete and succeed . Participating in sports all year round, for more than one club and for school teams too can put additional stress on the youth athlete’s body. This overtraining can lead to burnout negatively affecting youth athlete’s athletic performance.
HOW TO RECOGNISE BURNOUT
Burnout has a higher incidence rate of between 20-30% with a higher risk in individual sport athletes, females and those competing at high levels. The most common symptoms are like those seen in adults and include :
- Increased perception of effort during exercise
- Frequent upper respiratory tract infections
- Muscle soreness
- Sleep disturbances
- Loss of appetite
- Mood disturbances
- Shortness of temper
- Decreased motivation for training/competition
- Decreased self-confidence
- Lack of concentration
8 WAYS TO RECOVER FROM & PREVENT OVERTRAINING
- Limit weekly/yearly participation time: this allows limits to sport-specific repetitive movements and scheduled rest periods which should be individualised to the growing youth athlete.
- Careful monitoring of the training workload: this is essential during the growth phase of youth athletes to reduce the high injury risk.
- Preseason conditioning: this along with neuromuscular training can help reduce injury risk as the athlete trains their body to become stronger.
- Correct equipment: using the correct equipment tailored to the athlete’s needs and regular resizing is recommended to help control the injury risk.
- Emphasise skill development: this will help to improve the athlete’s core skills and performance without focusing on the volume of training and competitions.
- Prior injury: monitoring of injuries and recovery will allow identification of at-risk athletes from previous injury weakness.
- Education: athletes, coaches and parents should be informed on the concept of sports readiness, physiological, and psychological factors that influence fatigue and burnout.
- Address the cause of the injury: if an overuse injury occurs it is essential to acknowledge why this occurred. Strategies should be reviewed and from reviewing implemented by the coach, athlete, and parents to avoid re-injury .
A major player in ensuring athletes don't overtrain, is to have their nutritional strategy on-point. Learning about the right types of foods and the best time to eat them can dramatically affect their recovery and energy levels.
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 Brenner JS. Overuse injuries, overtraining, and burnout in child and adolescent athletes. Pediatrics. 2007 Jun 1;119(6):1242-5.
 Winsley R, Matos N. Overtraining and elite young athletes. The elite young athlete. 2011;56:97-105.
 DiFiori JP, Benjamin HJ, Brenner JS, Gregory A, Jayanthi N, Landry GL, Luke A. Overuse injuries and burnout in youth sports: a position statement from the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine. British journal of sports medicine. 2014 Feb 1;48(4):287-8.