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ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Year : 2022  |  Volume : 22  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 16-20

Effect of COVID-19 pandemic on athletes' anxiety


Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, Jamia Hamdard, New Delhi, India

Date of Submission04-Oct-2021
Date of Acceptance15-Jan-2022
Date of Web Publication4-Apr-2022

Correspondence Address:
Deepika Singla
Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, Jamia Hamdard, Hamdard Nagar, New Delhi, Delhi
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/sjsm.sjsm_27_21

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  Abstract 


Background: Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) had an adverse effect on all the aspects of life and on people from all walks of life. The sheer damage caused by this pandemic on the affected individuals as well as the socioeconomic harm is immeasurable. Due to the scale of disruption in lifestyles and day-to-day activities of the population, it has become quite difficult to assess how the pandemic has affected people of various occupations and segments.
Objective: The objective of this study is to assess the effect of COVID-19 pandemic on athletes' anxiety.
Methods: Forty-one athletes filled out a questionnaire distributed through the Internet through Google forms to measure their anxiety, worry, and concentration disruption score. It was filled once for prelockdown (baseline score) and then for postlockdown and then compared. A two-tailed t-test was then conducted.
Results: The t-value of the trait anxiety score (total) was ‒0.694 with P = 0.492, and that of the worry score was 0.477 with P = 0.636. The t-value for concentration disruption score and somatic trait anxiety score was ‒2.115 (P = 0.041) and ‒0.371 (P = 0.712), respectively.
Conclusion: There was a significant effect of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown on athletes' anxiety.

Keywords: Concentration, lockdown, performance, sports


How to cite this article:
Irfan MO, Singla D. Effect of COVID-19 pandemic on athletes' anxiety. Saudi J Sports Med 2022;22:16-20

How to cite this URL:
Irfan MO, Singla D. Effect of COVID-19 pandemic on athletes' anxiety. Saudi J Sports Med [serial online] 2022 [cited 2022 Aug 10];22:16-20. Available from: https://www.sjosm.org/text.asp?2022/22/1/16/342524




  Introduction Top


During the end of the year 2019, the world witnessed the emergence of a lethal virus known as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 which led to the disease that has shaken the world to its core, the coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19).[1] The disease is highly transmittable through air, by breathing in air when a noninfected person is close to an infected person that is exhaling small droplets that contain the virus. Even if these droplets land on the eyes, nose, or mouth, especially through splashes and sprays such as a cough or sneeze. Touching one's eyes, nose, or mouth with infected hands that have the virus is also a causative factor.[2]

Due to such high transmission, the virus quickly spread from the region to region, forcing the governments of the world to seize all kinds of travel, gatherings, social, and recreational events. Even schools, offices, and shops had to be shut down in to contain the spread of this deadly disease.

The most common and highly effective strategy that the world implemented was total lockdown, where citizens had to stay at home and not move outside unless in an emergency.[3],[4],[5],[6]

This affected the socioeconomic balance, the educational and financial systems, and everything in between. The fear of contracting this disease caused the people to stay indoors. After months of battling the disease, the governments started opening up the lockdown in phases to ease the people into their regular schedules, but they had to stay vigilant and practice norms such as wearing face masks, maintaining distance from one another, and regularly sanitizing any and all surfaces that could leave a trace of the virus.

Studies relating to the COVID-19 pandemic and anxiety suggest that many suffer from uncertainty, fear of infection, moral distress, and grief. There is increasing concern about coping with the resulting anxiety, as well as with its long-term individual and collective impacts.[7] Mental health became as much of an issue as physical health of the public.

The ritual of watching sports in large gatherings and the players interacting with each other, and many sports being contact sports in nature, it became a concern on how to conduct such sporting events. The players, on the other hand, have their own problems to deal with while participating in a competitive sporting event. The pressure of performing well in front of an audience and being able to win a game can cause mental stress on an athlete, this is known as performance anxiety.[8]

Anxiety is a state of mind which is highly unpleasant and causes feelings such as nervousness, hesitation, worrying, and even some physiological changes.[7]

One study on the fear of COVID-19 and its role in preventive behaviors suggested how the psychosocial consequences of the pandemic can have profound psychological effects on all individuals worldwide.[9]

On the other hand, researches such as the one conducted by John S. Raglin suggest that many athletes appear to perform best when experiencing the high levels of anxiety and interventions that act to produce dormancy may actually worsen the performance of this group.[10]

The already ever-present performance anxiety and the anxiety of performing after a long hiatus due to the long duration of lockdowns, which can cause deconditioning in athletes, and the anxiety of contracting the coronavirus combined can tend to affect how an athlete acts during the course of the competition.

This is where this study comes in, the thought was to compare an athletes' anxiety before the pandemic where they only had to deal with performance anxiety, with the anxiety that the athlete experiences and after the lockdowns were lifted in combination with the potential anxiety of COVID-19. This study will help to single out the population that is involved in sports competitions and shed some light on how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected these specific people. The focus of the study is to assess how the fear of being infected by the novel coronavirus upon re-entry into the competitions postlockdown will affect the anxiety of the athletes.

The specific aim and objective of this study are to determine the effect of COVID-19 pandemic lockdown on the anxiety of athletes. We hypothesize that there will be a change in athletes' anxiety due to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.


  Methods Top


Design

A cross-sectional study design was used to assess the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown on four variables: trait anxiety, worry, concentration disruption, and somatic trait anxiety.

Participants

Forty-one athletes took part in this study by filling out questionnaires through Google forms. They were between the age group of 16–40 years and belonged to one of the following levels of participation: collegiate, state, national, and international. Participants having disabilities were excluded from the study.

Procedure

All the selected participants were informed in detail about the aim and objective of the study. Their participation was voluntary. Those that sufficed the inclusion criteria were approached to participate in the study. They were given the consent form and briefed about the study and the procedure.

They were then digitally sent the Google Forms which they had to fill out. The form first collected their demographic data which included important information such as age, gender, medical history, weight, height, and body mass index (BMI and were briefed about the Sports Anxiety Scale. which they had to fill out twice, once for the prelockdown and a second time for the postlockdown. Responses were noted, and the data collection was completed. The data were analyzed based on the prepared Master Chart. Calculations were made according to the data received and two-tailed t-test was conducted.

The sport anxiety scale

The scale was originally introduced by Smith et al. in 1990 to measure multidimensional trait anxiety and the individual differences in the cognitive and somatic anxiety that the athletes witnessed during play. The Sport Anxiety Scale (SAS) consists of 21 questions to assess anxiety response tendencies to sport-specific competitive situations. This scale also consisted of three subscales, namely Worry, somatic anxiety, and concentration disruption. Both the subscales of worry and concentration disruption were used to assess cognitive anxiety. Respondents rate their feelings in general before or during a competitive situation using a 4-point Likert scale for the responses, ranging from 1 (not at all) to 4 (very much).

Smith et al.(2006) later proposed the SAS-2. This was done after they observed a five-factor solution with several items. The scale does not require any time limit for its completion.

Scoring: the scale utilizes four variations of adding up responses to get the scores for the subscales.

The trait anxiety score is achieved by adding up all the numbers circled by the respondent. The other subscale scores are collected using the following combinations:

  • Worry Score: add up questions 3, 5, 9, 10, 13, 16, and 18
  • Concentration disruption score: add up questions 2, 6, 7, 14, and 20
  • Somatic Trait Anxiety Score: add up questions 1, 4, 8, 11, 12, 15, 17, 19, and 21.[11]


Data analysis

The process of data analysis was conducted using the software Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (IBM Corp. Released 2019. IBM SPSS Statistics for Windows, Version 26.0. Armonk, NY: IBM Corp). Paired t-test was used for the comparison between the postlockdown and prelockdown responses. Master Chart was prepared on Microsoft Excel. Analysis was done for 41 participants. Demographic characteristics of the participants such as age, weight, height, and BMI were descriptively summarized. Statistical significance was set at P < 0.05. P > 0.05 was considered statistically nonsignificant.


  Results Top


Demographic profile of participants

Descriptive values of age, height, weight, and BMI are mentioned in [Table 1] below. The mean values of age, height, weight, and BMI were 24.39 ± 7.25 (years), 1.72 ± 0.12 (m), 68.03 ± 12.96 (kg), and 23.17 ± 4.71, respectively.
Table 1: Demographic details of participants

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The percentage of level of participation in collegiate, state, national, and international was 68.3%, 9.8%, 17.1%, and 4.9%, respectively.

Comparison between pre- and postscores

[Table 2] shows the comparative results of the trait anxiety score, worry score, concentration disruption score, and somatic trait anxiety score between prelockdown and postlockdown.
Table 2: Sport Anxiety Scale and t-test results

Click here to view


The mean values of the trait anxiety score (total), worry score, concentration disruption score, and somatic trait anxiety score for prelockdown were 37.93 ± 10.008, 13.73 ± 4.177, 8.02 ± 2.115, and 16.17 ± 5.133, respectively.

The mean values of the trait anxiety score (total), worry score, concentration disruption score, and somatic trait anxiety score for postlockdown were 38.73 ± 13.094, 13.49 ± 4.859, 8.88 ± 3.415, and 16.37 ± 6.016, respectively.

[Table 2] also shows the t-test results from comparing the prelockdown and postlockdown scores.

The t-value of the trait anxiety score (total) was ‒ 0.694 with a significance 0.492, and that of the worry score was 0.477 with a significance of 0.636.

The t-value for concentration disruption score and somatic trait anxiety score was ‒2.115 (0.041 significance) and ‒0.371 (0.712 significance), respectively.


  Discussion Top


The purpose of this study was to assess the effect of COVID-19 pandemic lockdown on the anxiety of athletes.

Many studies have found a significant relationship between anxiety experienced by an athlete and sports competition.[12],[13],[14],[15],[16]

Małgorzata Gambin et al. also correlated anxiety with the COVID-19 lockdown in nonsport person. Their study also indicates the need for intensive preventive and therapeutic interventions addressed to at-risk individuals aimed at reducing the risk of developing anxiety symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic and preventing negative long-term outcomes.[17]

The results of the above study revealed a significant univariate effect. The youngest individuals (aged 18–29) displayed significantly higher levels of anxiety than those in the 45–59 and 60–85 age groups. Individuals in the age range of 30–44 years demonstrated a higher level of anxiety than individuals aged 60 years and older (P = 0.02).[17]

This showcases that the youngest individuals display the highest anxiety and the value decreases as we go higher in the age groups. As is the case in our study as most athletes are on the younger side of the spectrum.

According to the present research, the mean value of the trait anxiety score (total) for prelockdown was 37.93 ± 10.008, whereas the mean value for postlockdown was 38.73 ± 13.094. The t-value for concentration disruption score was ‒2.115 (P = 0.041).

The result that we obtained in this study was that there was a significant effect of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown on athletes' concentration.

Another study comparing the anxiety and stress between athletes that start a race and ones that do not start a race showed the following results: the starter group had lower stress and anxiety (F = 4.34, P = 0.01 and F = 6.61, P < 0.01, respectively) during competition than the nonstarter group.[18]

Meaning that athletes that are in the same competition and the same environment can possibly exhibit different levels of anxiety which can most likely be due the reason that everyone's experience is different.

In contrast to the study by Małgorzata Gambin et al., John S. Raglin's study suggests that many athletes appear to perform best when experiencing the high levels of anxiety and are more equipped to endure it without exhibiting negative anxiety-related symptoms.[10]

The major difference between the two studies was that the first one[17] was conducted on the general public on the basis of their age during the COVID-19 pandemic and the second one[10] was conducted on athletes outside a pandemic.

The anxiety scores may not truly reflect the anxiety as a result of being a sports person stuck in a pandemic situation. Anxiety due to mental conditions within the home environment and due to the inability to play or indulge in physical activity may have added on to the total anxiety scores. Because it is a well-known fact that indulging in physical activity reduces stress and anxiety, hence being homebound may increase the anxiety levels.

Gathering the information from these studies, we can come to the understanding that due to the ability of some athletes being able to withstand anxiety, they are more capable to handle the pandemic-induced anxiety as compared to the general public, which seems to be in line with our result.

The present research suggests that athletes may exhibit a change in anxiety due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Limitations

First, the study was limited to the questionnaire format and the participants had to recall their prelockdown scores.

The postlockdown competitive experience was relatively new, and the sample size was relatively small.

The anxiety scores may not truly reflect the anxiety as a result of being a sports person stuck in a pandemic situation. Anxiety due to mental conditions within the home environment and due to the inability to play or indulge in physical activity may have added to the total anxiety scores. Because it is a well-known fact that indulging in physical activity reduces stress and anxiety, hence being homebound may increase the anxiety levels.

Future research

Large sample size can be taken for more generalized results; furthermore, comparisons can be drawn between male athletes and female athletes.

More variables such as effect on sports performance, stress, and decision-making can also be assessed. The level of participation can be made more specific and contain participants belonging to only one common level. We can also select a specific sport.


  Conclusion Top


There was a significant effect of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown on athletes' anxiety.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
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