Overtraining and elite young athletes

Med Sport Sci. 2011:56:97-105. doi: 10.1159/000320636. Epub 2010 Dec 21.


In comparison to adults, our knowledge of the overtraining syndrome in elite young athletes is lacking. The evidence indicates an incidence rate of ∼20-30%, with a relatively higher occurrence seen in individual sport athletes, females and those competing at the highest representative levels. The most commonly reported symptoms are similar to those observed in over trained adult athletes: increased perception of effort during exercise, frequent upper respiratory tract infections, muscle soreness, sleep disturbances, loss of appetite, mood disturbances, shortness of temper, decreased interest in training and competition, decreased self-confidence, inability to concentrate. The association between training load and overtraining is unclear, and underlines the importance of taking a holistic approach when trying to treat or prevent overtraining in the young athlete so that both training and non-training stressors are considered. Of particular relevance to the issue of overtraining in the elite young athlete are the development of a unidimensional identity, the lack of autonomy, disempowerment, perfectionist traits, conditional love, and unrealistic expectations. Overtraining syndrome is a complex phenomenon with unique and multiple antecedents for each individual; therefore, an open-minded and comprehensive perspective is needed to successfully treat/prevent this in the young athlete.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Athletic Performance / physiology*
  • Athletic Performance / psychology*
  • Burnout, Professional / epidemiology
  • Burnout, Professional / etiology*
  • Burnout, Professional / physiopathology*
  • Burnout, Professional / psychology*
  • Child
  • Cumulative Trauma Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Cumulative Trauma Disorders / psychology*
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Physical Education and Training / methods*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sports / physiology*
  • Sports / psychology*
  • Syndrome