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Abstract

When COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic, collegiate athletic departments faced the difficult decision to postpone or cancel sport activities. Aside from concerns of transmission, disruptions in sport impacted college athletes broadly. This study was designed to investigate athletes’ experiences during the pandemic toward developing a better understanding of athletes’ attitudes about COVID-19 and returning to sport. Participants included 245 varsity collegiate athletes across NCAA sports and divisions who voluntarily completed an online survey between August and October 2020. Collegiate athletes reported significant impacts of COVID-19 on areas including mental health, physical fitness, and academic progress. Approximately one in four participants reported that they had tested positive for COVID-19 at some point between the onset of the pandemic and completing the survey. Less than half of the respondents, however, endorsed worry about exposure to COVID-19 while participating in their sport. Most collegiate athletes reported satisfaction with their athletic department’s response to COVID-19 and adherence to guidelines and recommendations. Temperature checks, sanitation of equipment and regular COVID-19 testing were among the top recommended procedures endorsed by participants. Some athletes, however, reported concerns about feasibility of safety procedures for their particular sport. Overall, respondents demonstrated eagerness to return to sport despite COVID-19 related risks.

Keywords: athlete mental health, college-athlete, COVID-19, pandemic, return to sport

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