Burnout in Sport Specializers Versus Samplers: An Evidence-to-Practice Review
The prevalence of sport specialization is a common concern in contemporary youth sports and has been linked to potential negative physical and psychological effects for developing athletes. While the evidence regarding negative physical effects, such as overuse injury, are consistent in the literature, the psychosocial outcomes are unclear due to the lack of published studies on the topic. Specialization is thought to lead to added stress, which may affect an athlete’s mental health, whereas athletes who sample multiple sports are believed to have a healthier psychosocial experience. Burnout is characterized as physical and emotional exhaustion, sport devaluation and a reduced sense of accomplishment in athletics. This guiding review evaluates the evidence regarding burnout levels between specializers and samplers. Two of the articles included in the review directly assessed burnout in samplers vs specializers and noted inconsistencies in higher burnout rates. The six other articles studied burnout only in specializers by indirectly assessing burnout through perfectionism, fear of failure, motivation, and drop out. The comparisons of these variables illustrated heightened burnout in athletes who specialize. The results from these studies provide moderate evidence for recommendations that athletes should delay specializing in one sport.
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