The Relationship between Stress, Rest, and Injury among Division III Athletes

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Scott VanderStoep, Hope College

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Practitioners working with youth athletes usually advise against several physical and psychological risk factors: starting organized sports too young, playing weekend tournaments, heightened involvement and pressure from adult coaches and parents. The purpose of this study was to test if the findings from the clinical literature related to stress and rest are also found in a sample of successful college athletes. The questionnaire assessed five areas: demographics and sports participation history, attitudes towards sports and perceptions of stress in sports, sports injury and training history, general attitudes about youth sports, and beliefs about the role of parents in sports. Two major findings were identified; one related to athlete stress and one related to time off from sports. First, athletes who felt high stress from coaches and parents began playing sports at an earlier age. Those who felt high stress from coaches were out for more weeks due to injury. Also, there were differences found between ever having a chronic injury and never having (muscle/tendon, bony, and ligament/joint). Second, athletes who had suffered from chronic muscle/tendon, acute bony or acute ligament/joint injuries said that they rested for fewer days per week when out of season compared to those who did not suffer those injuries. In-season rest, by contrast, was only significant with one of the injury types (acute ligament/joint). The current study confirms what practitioners have warned against. Specifically, reducing stress from adults may provide the healthy benefits of delaying children’s entry into team sports and may also reduce injury. Also in this sample, athletes who took adequate rest lowered the risk of several different types of injuries. Given that these findings occurred in a sample of successful athletes suggests that reducing stress and providing rest will be at least as important in broader populations

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