Changes in training patterns and confidence to return to sport in United States collegiate athletes during the COVID-19 pandemic

Phys Sportsmed. 2023 Jun;51(3):269-274. doi: 10.1080/00913847.2022.2046957. Epub 2022 Mar 8.


Objective: To describe the training patterns, return to sport (RTS) confidence, and perceived fitness during the COVID-19 pandemic summer 2020 and to compare training patterns and RTS readiness during COVID-19 versus during the 2019 summer in a cohort of Division III collegiate athletes.

Methods: An electronic survey of varsity athletes ≥18 years at three United States Division III colleges querying athlete demographics, Modified Athletic Identity Scale (mAIMS), changes in training regimen summer 2020 vs. 2019, RTS confidence, and perceived physical fitness.

Results: One hundred and ninety-two surveys were completed (19% response). Total reported summer 2020 training decreased by 4 hours/week, with increased aerobic (56% vs. 53%, p = 0.03) and decreased sport-specific training (48% vs 70%, p < 0.001). Median RTS confidence score for formal training and competition was 3 ('neither more or less confident') in men's versus 2 ('less confident') in women's athletes. Median fitness self-assessment for men's athletes was 3 ('neither more nor less physically fit') compared to previous season versus median score of 2 ('less physically fit) among women's athletes (p = 0.004). For each mAIMS unit, training increased by 11 minutes/week (95% CI: 2-19 minutes; p = 0.01) and sport-specific training increased by 1.3% (95% CI: 0.5-2.2%; p = 0.003), controlling for age, sport, grade, and school. mAIMS was not associated with confidence or fitness rating.

Conclusion: Collegiate athletes decreased overall training hours, particularly sport-specific training time during the COVID-19 summer compared to the prior summer. Athletic identity was related to overall and sport-specific training hours but not confidence to RTS or fitness.

Keywords: COVID-19; Pandemic; athletic identity; collegiate athlete; training.

MeSH terms

  • Athletes
  • Athletic Injuries* / epidemiology
  • COVID-19*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pandemics
  • Return to Sport
  • United States
  • Universities