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)?  
by: Nicole Cattano
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