Impact of COVID-19 on College Student Athletes’ Health, Performance, and Psychological Well-being

The COVID-19 pandemic and the cancellation of collegiate sports hit university athletic departments in early March, 2020, closing down college and university campuses and housing, sending hundreds of thousands of student athletes to live with family, friends, relatives, and others, and altering the manner in which their classes were delivered and experienced. College students, including athletes, are high-risk for mental health concerns (e.g., depression, anxiety, suicide; Liu et al., 2018; ACHA-NCHA II, 2019), which are likely to be exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Student-athletes have been uniquely affected. Not only have they endured the general shutdown of higher education and the broader societal impacts of COVID-19, they have had their sport seasons canceled and identities shaken. Further, when student-athletes return to school, they will be required to take on a level of risk, through their sport participation, that every other college student will be able to minimize through physical distancing and remote learning. Student-athletes will be required to navigate universities’ modified learning (and living) environments, and continue to represent their schools through physical activities that will increase their risk of contracting COVID-19.

We designed this year-long research project to track student-athletes as they live through these events and thus determine the immediate and longer-term impacts on their coping and psychological well-being, health, and performance. Data from this longitudinal study will be available to all NCAA Division I, II, and III athletic departments so their personnel can understand what their student athletes may be experiencing and make evidence-based decisions on how to care for them as they return to campus and navigate the current realities of COVID-19 and playing collegiate sports. We hope that these reports will promote athletes’ psychological, academic, and athletic well-being during this time of uncertainty and challenge. 

Through the links below, individuals may access the executive summary as well as the full report on the baseline data. We will continue to follow this group of 6000 student athletes through the upcoming year and, through their responses, will have a window into how these young adults are coping with this pandemic and the effect it had on their mental health and psychological well-being. As we gather new data, we will make update reports available here.

Baseline Data – Released July 8, 2020
Executive Summary
Full Research Report