An Exploratory Analysis of the Impact of Concussions on Female Collegiate Athletes' Susceptibility to Burnout


  • Shaine Henert Northern Illinois University
  • Kevin Barton Northern Illinois University


Burnout, Stress, Athlete Burnout, Concussion, Collegiate Athletes, Athlete Burnout Questionnaire


Sport concussions and athletic burnout have received a lot of attention in the sport medicine and psychology literature. To date there have been no studies examining the relationship between sport concussions and athlete burnout even though there is evidence suggesting this may be a unique source of stress for athletes. Previous research has called for more prospective research designs to understand the experience of burnout over the course of an athletic season. The purpose of this exploratory prospective study was to examine whether a history of concussions would affect female collegiate athlete’s feelings of burnout over the course of the season. We also examined all athletes’ ratings of burnout and differences in burnout based on sport team. Sixty-six female collegiate athletes competing in four different sports completed the Athlete Burnout Questionnaire (ABQ) at three time points during the season (early, middle, end). There were no significant differences in ratings of burnout between concussion groups, but ratings of burnout changed over the course of the season for all athletes. Emotional and physical exhaustion were rated the highest and peaked during the middle of the competitive season while ratings of reduced sense of accomplishment and sport devaluation continued to increase over the course of the season. There were also significant differences between sport teams as Lacrosse reported the highest feelings of burnout and Gymnastics reported the lowest feelings of burnout at all time points during the season. Suggestions for reducing the experience of burnout are proposed as well as future research.


Andersen, M. B., & Williams, J. M. (1988). A model of stress and athletic injury: Prediction and prevention. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 10(3), 294-306.

Arce, C., De Francisco, C., Andrade, E., Seoane, G., & Raedeke, T.D. (2012). Adaptation of the Athlete Burnout Questionnaire in a Spanish sample of athletes. The Spanish Journal of Psychology, 15, 1529-1536. doi: 10.5209/rev_SJOP.2012.v15.n3.39437

Armstrong, L. E., & Van Heest, J. L. (2002). The unknown mechanism of the overtraining syndrome: Clues from depression and psychoneuroimmunology. Sports Medicine, 32, 185–209. doi: 10.2165/00007256-200232030-0 0003

Armstrong, S., & Oomen-Early, J. (2009). Social connectedness, self-esteem, and depression symptomology among collegiate athletes versus nonathletes. Journal of American College Health, 57(5), 521–526.

Black, J.M., & Smith, A.L. (2007). An examination of Coakley’s perspective of identity, control and burnout among adolescent athletes. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 38, 417-436.

Broglio, S. P., Pontifex, M. B., O’Connor, P., & Hillman, C. H. (2009). The persistent effects of concussion on neuroelectric indices of attention. Journal of Neurotrauma, 26, 1463-1470.

Covassin, T., Stearne, D., & Elbin III, R. (2008). Concussion history and postconcussion neurocognitive performance and symptoms in collegiate athletics. Journal of Athletic Training, 43(2), 119-124.

Cremades, J. G., University, B., & Wiggins, M. S. (2008). Direction and intensity of trait anxiety as predictors of burnout among collegiate athletes. The Online Journal of Sport Psychology, 10(2), 1–15.

Cresswell, S.L. (2009). Possible early signs of burnout: A prospective study. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sports, 12, 393-398.

Cresswell, S.L., & Eklund, R.C. (2003). The athlete burnout syndrome: A practitioner’s guide. New Zealand Journal of Sports Medicine, 31,4-9.

Cresswell, S. L., & Eklund, R. C. (2005). Motivation and burnout among top amateur rugby players. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 37(3), 469-477. doi: 10.1249/01.mss.0000155398.71387.c2

Cresswell, S.L., & Eklund, R.C. (2006). The nature of player burnout in rugby: Key characteristics and attributions. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 18, 219-239.

Dubuc-Charbonneau, N., Durand-Bush, N., & Forneris, T. (2014). Exploring levels of student-athlete burnout at two Canadian universities. Canadian Journal of Higher Education, 44(2), 135–151.

Goodger, K., Gorely, T., Lavallee, D., & Harwood, C. (2007). Burnout in sport: A systematic review. The Sport Psychologist, 21(2), 127-151.

Goodger, K., Wolfenden, L., & Lavallee, D. (2007). Symptoms and consequences associated with three dimensions of burnout in junior tennis players. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 38, 342-364.

Gould, D. (1996). Personal motivation gone awry: Burnout in competitive athletes. Quest, 48(3), 275-289.

Gould, D., Tuffey, S., Udry, E., & Loehr, J. (1996). Burnout in competitive junior tennis players: II. A qualitative analysis. The Sport Psychologist, 10, 341-366.

Gould, D., & Whitley, M. A. (2009). Sources and consequences of athletic burnout among college athletes. Journal of Intercollegiate Sport, 2(1), 16-30.

Guedes, D.P., & de Souza, R.O. (2016). Psychometric properties of the Athlete Burnout Questionnaire for young Brazilian athletes. Journal of Physical Education, 27, e2708.

Gustafsson, H., Hassmén, P., Kenttä, G., & Johansson, M. (2008). A qualitative analysis of burnout in elite Swedish athletes. Psychology of Sport & Exercise, 9, 800-816.

Gustafsson, H., Kenttä, G., & Hassmén, P. (2011). Athlete burnout: An integrated model and future research directions. International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 4(1), 3-24.

Gustafsson, H., Kenttä, G., Hassmén, P., & Lundqvist, C. (2007). Prevalence of burnout in adolescent competitive athletes. The Sport Psychologist, 21, 21-37.

Gustafsson, H., Kenttä, G., Hassmén, P., & Lundqvist, C. & Durand-Bush, N. (2007). The process of burnout: A multiple case study of three elite endurance athletes. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 38, 388-416.

Gustafsson, H., Madigan, D.J., & Lundkvist, E. (2017). Burnout in athletes. In R. Fuchs & M. Gerber (Eds.), Stress regulation und Sport. Heidelberg: Springer.

Harmon, K. G., Drezner, J. A., Gammons, M., Guskiewicz, K. M., Halstead, M., Herring, S. A., ... & Roberts, W. O. (2013). American Medical Society for Sports Medicine position statement: concussion in sport. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 47(1), 15-26. doi: 10.1097/JSM.0b013e31827f5f93

Heidari, S. (2013). Gender differences in burnout in individual athletes. European Journal of Experimental Biology, 3(3), 583–588.

Holmberg, P. M., & Sheridan, D. A. (2013). Self-determined motivation as a predictor of burnout among college athletes. The Sport Psychologist, 27(2), 177-187.

Hutchison, M., Mainwaring, L. M., Comper, P., Richards, D. W., and Bisschop, S. M. (2009). Differential emotional responses of varsity athletes to concussion and musculoskeletal injuries. Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine, 19, 13–19. doi: 10.1097/JSM.0b013e318190ba06

Isoard-Gautheur, S., Oger, M., Guillet, E., & Martin-Krumm, C. (2010). Validation of a French version of the Athlete Burnout Questionnaire (ABQ): In competitive sport and physical education context. European Journal of Psychological Assessment, 26, 203-211. doi:10.1027/1015-5759/a000027

Kellmann, M. (2002). Psychological assessment of underrecovery. In M. Kellmann (Ed.), Enhancing recovery: Preventing underperformance in athletes (pp. 37-55). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Kenttä, G., & Hassmén, P. (2002). Underrecovery and overtraining: A conceptual model. In M. Kellmann (Ed.), Enhancing recovery: Preventing underperformance in athletes (pp. 57-79). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Kerr, Z. Y., Marshall, S. W., Harding, H. P. Jr., and Guskiewicz, K. M. (2012). Nine-year risk of depression diagnosis increases with increasing self-reported concussions in retired professional football players. American Journal of Sports Medicine, 40, 2206–2212. doi:10.1177/0363546512456193

Lazarus, R.S., & Folkman, S. (1984). Stress, appraisal, and coping. New York: Springer.

Lemyre, P. N., Treasure, D. C., & Roberts, G. C. (2006). Influence of variability in motivation and affect on elite athlete burnout susceptibility. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 28(1), 32-48.

Mainwaring, L. M., Hutchison, M., Bisschop, S. M., Comper, P., and Richards, D.W. (2010). Emotional response to sport concussion compared to ACL injury. Brain Injury, 24, 589–597. doi:10.3109/02699051003610508

Martignetti, A., Arthur-Cameselle, J., Keeler, L., & Chalmers, G. (2020) The relationship between burnout and depression in intercollegiate athletes: An examination of gender and sport-type. Journal for the Study of Sports and Athletes in Education. doi: 10.1080/19357397.2020.1768036

Maslach, C., Schaufeli, W. B., & Leiter, M. P. (2001). Job burnout. Annual Review of Psychology, 52(1), 397–422.

Mertler, C.A. & Vannatta, R.A. (2005). Advanced and multivariate statistical methods (3rd ed.). Los Angeles, California: Pyrczak Publishing.

Mansell, J. L., Tierney, R. T., Higgins, M., McDevitt, J., Toone, N., & Glutting, J. (2010). Concussive signs and symptoms following head impacts in collegiate athletes. Brain Injury, 24(9), 1070-1074.

McCrea, M., Guskiewicz, K., Randolph, C., Barr, W. B., Hammeke, T. A., Marshall, S. W., ... & Kelly, J. P. (2013). Incidence, clinical course, and predictors of prolonged recovery time following sport-related concussion in high school and college athletes. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, 19(1), 22-33. doi:10.1017/S1355617712000872

McClincy, M. P., Lovell, M. R., Pardini, J., Collins, M. W., & Spore, M. K. (2006). Recovery from sports concussion in high school and collegiate athletes. Brain Injury, 20(1), 33-39.

Nixdorf, I., Frank, R., & Beckmann, J. (2016). Comparison of athletes’ proneness to depressive symptoms in individual and team sports: Research on psychological mediators in junior elite athletes. Frontiers in Psychology, 7(1), 1–8. 2016.00893

Puffer, J.C., & McShane, J.M. (1992). Depression and chronic fatigue in athletes. Clinical Sports Medicine, 11, 327–338.

Raedeke, T. D. (1997). Is athlete burnout more than just stress? A sport commitment perspective. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 19(4), 396-417.

Raedeke, T.D., & Smith, A.L. (2001) Development and preliminary validation of an athlete burnout measure. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 23(4), 281-306.

Raedeke, T. D., & Smith, A. L. (2004). Coping resources and athlete burnout: An examination of stress mediated and moderation hypotheses. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 26(4), 525-541.

Raedeke, T.D. & Smith, A.L. (2009). The Athlete Burnout Questionnaire Manual. Morgantown, WV: West Virginia University.

Raedeke, T.D., Arce, C., De Francisco, C., Seoane, G., & Ferraces, M.J. (2013). The construct validity of the Spanish version of the ABQ using a multi-trait/multi-method approach.

Anales de Psicologia, 29, 693-700.

Sharp, L.A., Woodcock, C., Holland, M.J.G., Duda, J.L., & Cummings, J. (2010). Validation of the Athlete Burnout Questionnaire with youth athletes. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 28, S218-219.

Wasserman, E.B., Kerr, Z.Y., Zuckerman, S., and Covassin, T. (2016). Epidemiology of sports-related concussions in National Collegiate Athletic Association athletes from 2009-2010 to 2013-2014: Symptom prevalence, symptom resolution time, and return-to-play time. American Journal of Sports Medicine, 44(1), 226-233.

Wolanin, A., Hong, E., Marks, D., Panchoo, K., & Gross, M. (2016). Prevalence of clinically elevated depressive symptoms in college athletes and differences by gender and sport. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 50(3), 167–171.

Yang, J., Peek-Asa, C., Corlette, J. D., Cheng, G., Foster, D. T., & Albright, J. (2007). Prevalence of and risk factors associated with symptoms of depression in competitive collegiate student athletes. Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine, 17(6), 481–487. https://doi. org/10.1097/JSM.0b013e31815aed6b