Sports Medicine Research: In the Lab & In the Field: Sports Participation: Too Little? Too Much? Just Right... (Sports Med Res)


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Sports Participation: Too Little? Too Much? Just Right...

Current Health-Related Quality of Life Is Lower in Former Division I Collegiate Athletes Than in Non-Collegiate Athletes

Simon JE & Dougherty CL. American Journal of Sports Medicine. Published Online First December 6, 2013 doi:10.1177/0363546513510393

Take Home Message: Former division I collegiate athletes may have poorer long-term health-related quality of life in comparison with recreationally active non-athletes.   

Participation in sports and physical activity is often cited for its positive affects on quality of life and health outcomes; however, attention should be given to the possible negative long-term effects of too much participation or injuries suffered as a result of participation.  Therefore, the purpose of this study was to assess quality of life and health outcomes among former Division I collegiate athletes in comparison with former physically-active collegiate non-athletes (both groups: 40 to 65 years of age).   The authors emailed potential participants the Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS) to assess the various areas involved in health-related quality of life (i.e., physical function, depression, fatigue, sleep, and Pain interference).  Survey results from 232 former Division I athletes (mean age ~53 years) and 225 non-athletes (mean age ~54 years) revealed that former Division I athletes had worse scores in physical function, depression, fatigue, sleep disturbances, and pain interference.  Former Division I athletes also reported 2.4 times higher rates of acute major injuries and 1.8 times higher rates of chronic injuries than non-athletes.  Finally, former Division I athletes also had higher rates of osteoarthritis (40%) in comparison with non-athletes (24%).        

This is one of the first articles to look at the long-term health-related quality of life among former college athletes.  It is interesting that it appears that participation at this level may leave former athletes more susceptible to long-term health and quality of life complications.  With recent news publicity and revelations regarding the long-term effects of concussions, this article adds to the trend that the sports medicine world is beginning to gain perspective and look at the entire long-term health of an athlete as opposed to the near-sighted focus on return to play and participating at the highest levels possible.  These results should be interpreted with caution, as there are many potential variables that could account for these differences (e.g., job occupation, age, current activity levels).  The authors of this study have just scratched the surface in the investigation of a very interesting problem within the sports medicine community.  It would be interesting to continue to collect information on this level of athlete, potentially doing another analysis on whether or not there are differences in former Division I athletes that suffered previous injury in comparison with those that have no injury history.  Furthermore, the authors admitted that they did not have a large enough sample to look at sport comparisons.  Lastly, it would be interesting to see if these findings are similar at the Division II or III levels.  Despite the need for more research, this study should spark further discussion within the sports medicine community about how we can promote health-related quality of life among our athletes after they leave their sports (e.g., wellness education, injury prevention programs).         

Questions for Discussion:  What are your thoughts regarding long-term effects of collegiate athletics participation?  Are there any health trends that you are noticing clinically in the former collegiate athlete population (e.g., earlier knee surgeries, decreased quality of life)?  
Written by: Nicole Cattano
Reviewed by: Jeffrey Driban

Related Posts:
Are We Doing Enough to Plan for How Injuries Affect Players Later in Life?

Simon JE, & Docherty CL (2013). Current Health-Related Quality of Life Is Lower in Former Division I Collegiate Athletes Than in Non-Collegiate Athletes. The American Journal of Sports Medicine PMID: 24318608


Julia Giampaolo said...

This is an interesting area of study. As a Division 1 athlete myself, I often wonder if I will experience future issues, especially in my knees. I had an ACL surgery, but it seems as if that knee is stronger that the other. However, it is clear that Division 1 athletes bodies' experience more taxing than others. Further research of this topic will simply reveal obvious evidence. In any event, high level athletes have a passion for sport and exercise and this evidence will not stop them from participation. I wouldn't change my collegiate experience for the world even if I have to deal with some issues down the road!

Jeffrey Driban said...

Julia: I don't think the goal will ever be to get high level athletes to stop participating. Instead, the research will hopefully show us what we can do to ameliorate the long term risks (e.g., injury prevention programs, wellness programs).

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