Understanding Youth Athlete Motivation, Training and Activity Progression During and After the COVID-19 Sports Interruption

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Understanding Youth Athlete Motivation, Training and Activity Progression During and After the COVID-19 Sports Interruption.

Greenberg, E, Greenberg, E, Lawrence JT, et al.



Background: COVID-19 restrictions created a period of disrupted sports participation for youth athletes. The physical conditioning, sports training habits, and patterns of sports activity resumption upon returning to normal sports activity are currently unknown.

Purpose/Hypothesis: This study aimed to determine the extent to which youth athletes maintained their training levels during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic and understand the strategies that enhanced motivation and adherence to a training regimen while in isolation. A secondary aim was to analyze how youth athletes returned to activity and identify injuries associated with prolonged sports interruption.

Study Design: Observational / Survey Study

Methods: A survey designed to determine activity changes, type of organized instruction, and athlete preferences for training support were distributed by email using snowball sampling methodology to athletes 14-21 years old who were involved in competitive sports when pandemic restrictions were enacted. As sports activities resumed, a follow-up survey was distributed to the same respondents to identify feelings of preparedness, training habits, and injuries.

Results: Of the155 subjects (mean age 16.1 ± 2 years, 64.5% female) that completed the initial survey, 98% reported a stoppage of in-person sports participation and 70% decreased their exercise/training volume, with 41% (n=63) reporting > 50% reduction. Most athletes (86%) received instruction from coaches, with written workouts (70%) being most common; however, most athletes (70%) preferred instructor-led, group training sessions. Of the 43 subjects that completed the follow-up survey (34% response rate), there was an increase in athletic exposures compared to mid-pandemic levels, and 25% reported sustaining a sports-related injury shortly after resuming sports activities.

Conclusions: Pandemic-related sports restrictions resulted in a significant reduction in youth athlete training and conditioning. Coaches attempted to maintain training via the use of written workouts; however, athletes preferred instructor-led, group training sessions. There was a rapid resumption of sports activities, which may have contributed to the high rate of injuries in this study.

Level of Evidence: 3