A qualitative analysis of burnout in elite Swedish athletes

Gustafsson, Henrik and Hassmen, Peter and Kentta, Goran and Johansson, Mattias (2008) A qualitative analysis of burnout in elite Swedish athletes. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 9 (6). pp. 800-816. ISSN 1469-0292


To extend the understanding of burnout in elite athletes, including personal experiences and perceived antecedents.

Design and Methods
Semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted with 10 Swedish 22- to 26-year-old elite athletes who had quit sport due to burnout. The interview transcripts were inductively analyzed using qualitative content analysis.

The findings support the notion of athlete burnout as a multidimensional syndrome. While stressors like multiple demands, 'too much sport', lack of recovery and high expectations were considered primary causes of burnout by the respondents, high motivation, unidimensional athletic identity, self-esteem strivings, high ego goals, negative perfectionist traits and feelings of entrapment were also found to be critical contributors. These restraining factors explained why the athletes continued their participation in sport despite a progressive worsening of their condition, and are therefore potentially crucial in the development of burnout.

Athlete burnout appears to be a complex interaction of multiple stressors, inadequate recovery and frustration from unfulfilled expectations, which is explained partly by maladaptive perfectionist traits and goals. This process is fuelled by a strong drive to validate self-worth, sometimes in conjunction with feelings of entrapment.

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Deposited in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher.
Faculty / Department / School: Historic - Faculty of Sciences - Department of Psychology
Date Deposited: 07 Feb 2012 07:25
Last Modified: 29 Aug 2014 03:22
Uncontrolled Keywords: athlete identity; motivation; overtraining; recovery; self-esteem
Fields of Research : 17 Psychology and Cognitive Sciences > 1701 Psychology > 170114 Sport and Exercise Psychology
17 Psychology and Cognitive Sciences > 1701 Psychology > 170109 Personality, Abilities and Assessment
11 Medical and Health Sciences > 1106 Human Movement and Sports Science > 110604 Sports Medicine
Socio-Economic Objective: E Expanding Knowledge > 97 Expanding Knowledge > 970117 Expanding Knowledge in Psychology and Cognitive Sciences
Identification Number or DOI: 10.1016/j.psychsport.2007.11.004
URI: http://eprints.usq.edu.au/id/eprint/20707

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