Home » Burnout In Youth Athletes: Risk Factors, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

From the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine

Burnout In Youth Athletes: Risk Factors, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment


Fatigue   Insomnia  Loss of appetite
Depression   Irritability  Weight loss
Slow or fast heart beat (bradycardia or tachycardia)   Agitation  Lack of mental concentration
Loss of motivation or interest   Decreased self-confidence  Heavy, sore, stiff muscles
Hypertension (e.g. high blood pressure)   Anxiety  Restlessness
Sleep disturbances   Nausea  Frequent illness


The diagnosis of overtraining syndrome/burnout should only be made by a qualified health care professional and only after the taking a thorough history and recognition of nonspecific and varied symptomatology:


  • Decreased performance persisting despite weeks to months of recovery
  • Mood disturbances
  • Lack of signs/symptoms or diagnosis of other possible causes of underperformance
  • Lack of enjoyment participating in sport
  • Inadequate nutrional and hydration intake

Presence of potential triggers, including

  • increased training load with adequate recovery
  • monotony of training
  • excessive number of competitions
  • sleep disturbance
  • stressors in family life (parental pressure)
  • stressors in sporting life (coaching pressure and travel demands)
  • previous illness.

Testing (if indicated by history)

  • consider laboratory studies (i.e. complete blood count (CBC), comprehensive metabolic panel, etc.)
  • Profile of Mood States (POMS)(a psychometric tool for a global measure of mood, tension, depression, anger, vigor, fatique, and confusion).


Treatment depends on the causes (e.g. etiology) of the burnout in the individual athlete:

  • treat any diagnosed organic disease appropriately
  • rest or relative rest an important component
  • consider whether prevention of dropout is possible by changing adult-controlled factors
  • efforts should be made to develop realistic but positive perceptions of competence 
  • consider consultation with sports pyschologist because more of a psychological component to burnout in children than in adults
  • initial treatment of depression, anxiety, and sleep disturbances without drugs, and implementation of drug therapy only with appropriate professional guidance.   


DiFiori JP, Benjamin HJ, Brenner J, Gregory A, Jayanthi N, Landry GL, Luke A. Overuse Injuries and Burnout in Youth Sports: A Position Statement from the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine. Clin J Sports Med. 2014;24(1):3-20. 

Most recently reviewed December 4, 2015