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Learning from sport burnout and overtraining
Learning from sport burnout and overtraining

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3 How can you measure burnout?

Devising ways in which a phenomenon can be measured is one of the scientific challenges with which researchers grapple. Physiological markers, such as measurements of the cortisol hormone, may be used since raised levels indicate increased stress. There is also something called heart rate variability (HRV) which measures any changes between your successive heart beats; a decrease in HRV indicates the body’s increased response to stress. Another method used to measure burnout is through a questionnaire.

In the activity that follows you will get a chance to try out an online burnout self-assessment tool developed by MindTools. MindTools are a company who provide online learning for management, leadership, and personal effectiveness skills.

Activity 3 How valid is the MindTools questionnaire measure?

Timing: Allow about 15 minutes

Open the MindTools burnout self-test [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] Footnote 1 (you may want to open this in a new browser tab or window by holding down Ctrl (or Cmd on a Mac) when you click the link).

Complete the questionnaire, then press the ‘Calculate my total’ button. You will need to close down the box which asks you to create a login. At this point you will see the ‘Score interpretation’ ranges sitting underneath the ‘Calculate my total’ button.

Assess how valid this questionnaire is at measuring if you are at risk of burnout. As this questionnaire concerns job-related burnout, you may want to view your involvement in sport or training as an important part of your job role.


This type of general job-related questionnaire gives an indication of how you can assess your situation. You would be right in thinking that this is not a particularly valid way of measuring burnout in a sport context. The note below the self-test confirms that it has not been scientifically validated.

In the sport training setting you would hope to see some recognition of the stress that training can create and, in particular, the three dimensions of sport burnout from Session 1 (emotional and physical exhaustion, a reduced sense of accomplishment, and sport devaluation).

Raedeke and Smith (2001) developed a fifteen-item Athlete Burnout Questionnaire (ABQ) for sport and scientifically tested it to evaluate how much it really measures the burnout concept. This quality of being reliable is called ‘questionnaire validity’.

As with all questionnaire measures there are some who critique their validity but the ABQ is by far the most used measurement tool in studying athlete burnout. A leading sport psychologist in this field, Gustafsson et al. (2017), suggests it is valuable for ‘comparing [burnout] levels with existing data or looking at the changes of the three [burnout] dimensions over time in a set context’ (p. 11). It is useful, then, primarily for making comparisons within a group of athletes.


Below are three sample items from the ABQ (Raedeke and Smith, 2001):

  • I am accomplishing many worthwhile things in sport/fitness.
  • I don’t care as much about my sport/fitness performance as I used to.
  • I am not performing up to my ability.

Researchers have often used the ABQ to decide who to include in their studies. Using this screening process, researchers may explore the question: what factors influence burnout? You can see how this can be answered in the next section.


  1. 1 For information, the Mind Tools privacy policy is available here: to main text