Conde E, Martínez-Aranda LM, Sanz G, López de Subijana C, Sánchez-Pato A, Díaz-Aroca Á, Leiva-Arcas A, García-Roca JA, Ramis Y, Torregrossa M
Front Psychol 12 (-) 736499 [2021-09-27; online 2021-09-27]
Spain is one of the many countries highly affected by the COVID-19 crisis, establishing very restrictive measures with a complete lockdown for more than 3 months. This situation forced the complete closure of sport practice and national or international competitions, leading to a negative impact on physical and psychological health of high-performance athletes. Therefore, the objectives of this study were (a) to determine the effects of the COVID-19 health crisis on Spanish high-performance athletes in terms of sports practice, life quality, and emotional state and (b) to identify the profile with the greatest difficulties during and after the lockdown. A sample of 130 high-performance athletes aged between 18 and 34 years (67 women and 63 men) participated in this study (83.1% achieved a medal in National-International elite competitions; 86.9% were considered student-athletes). Measures included socio-demographic data through a 5-dimension ad hoc survey: physical activity and exercise using an adapted version from the International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ); health status and limitations using an adapted version of SF-12 Health Questionnaire; Perceived stress (Short-PSS); and Mood States (29-item POMS). All participants have shown a significant decrease pre-post-lockdown in both health and performance perception, especially in women, individual athletes, medalists, and student-athletes. Strong limitations of training, attention, and motivation as well as a moderate negative emotional state during lockdown were reported, in women, individual athletes, medalists, and student-athletes. Even with an improved emotional state and energy level in the post-lockdown period, moderate-to-high stress scores were reported by women and medalists. Our findings highlight the importance of paying attention to the physical and psychological health of elite athletes on three profiles: team athletes (due to social distance), student-athletes (dual-career issues), and women athletes (prevalence of implicit gender inequalities in sport).