High academic stress may put collegiate athletes at greater risk of injury


August 10, 2015

Topic: sports injury treatment

While sports may come easy to collegiate athletes, it is not always the same for academics, and this can lead to stress on and off the field. In turn, this stress can lead to poor athletic performances and a greater risk of injury. How does it all happen?

Striving for good grades in college is a common goal for any student, and athletes are no exception. While sports may come easy to collegiate athletes, it is not always the same for academics, and this can lead to stress on and off the field. In turn, this stress can lead to poor athletic performances and a greater risk of injury. How does it all happen?

Researchers from the University of Missouri realized that college football players tend to be more stressed out during certain times of the year than at others. They discovered that players were more prone to experiencing injuries during the initial test weeks of play than in the actual training camp. The findings also revealed that players who started were more stressed out by academics than athletes on other lines. The results were published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

The study authors explained that stress is contagious. If one part of a person's life is stressful, other portions will be affected. So, if athletes are worried about a low test score or a not-so-great grade point average, their stress will not fade when they hit the field. Instead, it will worsen their skills during practice and games, making them more susceptible to injuries. 

A stressful situation
The researchers looked at 101 collegiate football players from a Division 1 team for 20 weeks. They examined the injury reports from week to week and found that 60 of the athletes had 86 different injury restrictions throughout the given time period. They polled the athletes on what times of the year they were the most stressed in school. For many, it was around the time that midterms or finals occurred. They found that during these incidences, players were more than 3 times as likely to sustain an injury than at other times when they were not as stressed. 

However, physical stressors seemed to have an impact too. The study authors also examined times that the athletes were physically stressed but not worried about school. During these occurrences, athletes were 2.8 times more likely to have an injury. 

The researchers concluded that coaches need to watch athletes' changes in behavior to prevent sports injuries from happening. The coaches in this study noted that they can predict certain times of the year that may hinder athletes' performance, such as finals week, so they can take preventative measures such as asking players to wear more pads during practice. However, there might be other stressors outside football that coaches do not know about. That is why it is crucial for them to build solid relationships with their players so they feel comfortable discussing any issues going on in their lives. Knowing athletes also means you know their general disposition better and can tell when it changes.

"As attitudes change, it usually indicates that something else is going on in their lives. We've got to find those causes so we can be proactive and get the athletes counseling or find other ways to meet their needs," said Bryan Mann, an assistant professor for physical therapy at the University of Missouri.

Taking the right approach
Luckily, many Division 1 schools like Mizzou have the resources necessary to help guide athletes in the right direction. There is counseling that can work on a person's academic and athletic career as well as help with future career plans. 

Athletes may also feel more pressured to perform better in school than non athletes, as many are on scholarships or need to meet a certain grade point average to stay on the team. One 2012 study from Northwest Missouri State University found that athletes actually have an average grade point average of 3.25, compared to non athletes' average grade point average of 3.01. Hopefully, coaches can be universally perceptive of this stress to prevent injuries from happening. 


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