Current health-related quality of life in former national athletic association division I collision athletes compared with contact and limited-contact athletes.
Simon J, Docherty CL. J Athl Training. 2016. 51(4). Epub Ahead of Print
Take Home Message: Former collegiate athletes who participated in collision sports (primarily football) reported lower quality of life when compared to contact or limited contact athletes.
Sports participation relates to both positive (e.g., reduced cardiovascular disease) and negative (e.g., pain, psychological concerns) long-term outcomes. Clarifying the relationship between sport participation and long-term quality of life can help clinicians understand how to help athletes transition into retirement and better educate athletes with regards to long-term outcomes after injury. Therefore, Simon and Docherty completed a cross-sectional study to measure health-related quality of life among former NCAA Division 1 collision, contact and limited-contact athletes. A total of 374 former athletes from a NCAA Division 1 school participated (40 to 65 years old, 124 collision, 136 contact, and 114 limited contact, 62% of those who received the survey). All athletes completed a health history questionnaire, demographic questionnaire, and a health-related quality of life instrument (Short Form 36). Overall, 116 former collision athletes participated in football. Thirty percent of athletes reported participating in professional athletics and 78% reported an injury severe enough to cause them to miss playing time. Forty-five athletes (12%) reported a career-ending injury. The authors found that former collision athletes reported lower quality of life in mental and physical health compared with contact and limited-contact athletes. The former collision athletes also had lower health-related quality of life compared with age-matched US population data, especially concerning the physical health subscales. Former contact and limited contact athletes had similar health-related quality of life compared with age-matched US population data and reported better quality of life in a few domains.
Overall, the authors found that former athletes who participated in collision sports (94% former football players) are more likely to have pain and lower quality of life when compared with other athletes and the general population. The authors anticipated this result and thought it is most likely due to the high amount of physical trauma that these athletes endure during their sport. One limitation of the current study was that 30% of respondents reported playing sports professionally. Future research should account for the length of time an athlete participated in a sport over their lifetime and explore how injury severity influences these outcomes. Regardless, the current study further builds a case that clinicians need to educate athletes about their long-term health and factors that may impede their long-term wellbeing. Furthermore, clinicians and athletic departments need to develop and implement wellness programs and programs to help athletes transition out of sport. In a setting where a patient is often focused on today, sports medicine clinicians have an obligation to their patients to think about the patients’ long-term health tomorrow.
Questions for Discussion: Do you counsel your athletes on the long-term implications of their athletic participation? If so, what strategies have you found particularly advantageous?
Written by: Kyle Harris
Reviewed by: Jeffrey Driban