The "burnout syndrom" and DHB


DHB’s reported fatigue has been top news lately.  It continues to draw heat on this blog as well.  I, for one, have been pretty hard on DHB – and in retrospect, it’s not so much DHB who makes me angry, but The Organization that can’t get over its urge to blow smoke about DHB’s actual condition.  So, instead of stewing, I decided to do my own Google search and based it on DHB’s reported symptoms.

I started with “the effects of prolonged rest after strenuous athletic activity” and found an article that agreed with my opinion that active recovery seems to be working better for athletes than complete rest.  But my professional training and inborn propensities as a devil’s advocate urged me on.  Lo and behold – the search paid off.  It appears that DHB may be having the “burnout syndrome.”

This is a pretty serious condition.  Remember how several days ago, I speculated that DHB’s problem may be more psychological than anything?  Read on:

The most common symptom is fatigue. This may limit workouts and may be present at rest. The athlete may also become moody, easily irritated, have altered sleep patterns, become depressed, or lose the competitive desire and enthusiasm for the sport. Some will report decreased appetite and weight loss. Physical symptoms include persistent muscular soreness, increased frequency of viral illnesses, and increased incidence of injuries.There have been several clinical studies done on athletes with the overtraining syndrome. Findings in these studies have shown decreased performance in exercise testing, decreased mood state, and, in some, increased cortisol levels -- the body's "stress" hormone. A decrease in testosterone, altered immune status, and an increase in muscular break down products have also been identified. Medically, the overtraining syndrome is classified as a neuro-endocrine disorder. The normal fine balance in the interaction between the autonomic nervous system and the hormonal system is disturbed and athletic "jet lag" results. The body now has a decreased ability to repair itself during rest. Heaping more workouts onto this unbalanced system only worsens the situation. Additional stress in the form of difficulties at work or personal life also contributes.

According to this study, the Raiders are doing the right thing with DHB:

When diagnosing overtraining syndrome, it is important to exclude any underlying illness that may be responsible for the fatigue. The only treatment for the overtraining syndrome is rest. The longer the overtraining has occurred, the more rest required. Therefore, early detection is very important. If the overtraining has only occurred for a short period of time (e.g., 3 - 4 weeks) then interrupting training for 3 - 5 days is usually sufficient rest. After this, workouts can be resumed on an alternate day basis. The intensity of the training can be maintained but the total volume must be lower.

…although they seriously messed up by allowing him to overtrain himself in the first place:

As with almost everything else health related, prevention is the key. Well-balanced gradual increases in training are recommended. A training schedule design called periodization varies the training load in cycles with built-in mandatory rest phases. During the high workload phase, the athlete alternates between high intensity interval work and low intensity endurance work. This approach is used by a number of elite athletes in many sports. A training log is the best method to monitor progress. In addition to keeping track of distance and intensity, the athlete can record the resting morning heart rate, weight, general health, how the workout felt, and levels of muscular soreness and fatigue. The latter two can be scored on a 10-point scale. Significant, progressive changes in any of these parameters may signal overtraining.

So – did the Raiders monitor DHB?  If yes, why didn’t they react earlier?  And we, fans – we got caught in the hype (“he’s training hard, hooray”).  Why didn’t the possibility occur to any of us that overtraining DHB is a distinct possibility?  Why didn’t we say anything while he was training hard? 

Anyway, if DHB has the “burnout syndrome,” rest is the only way to go.  Let’s hope he recovers soon – and that there is no underlying condition.  For “[w]hen diagnosing overtraining syndrome, it is important to exclude any underlying illness that may be responsible for the fatigue.”

Here is more on this syndrome (added emphasis):


The athletes' main complaint is underperformance , however increased susceptibility to infection, persistent high fatigue ratings, heavy muscles and depression are common symptoms. These are often ignored until performance is chronically affected. The athletes' reaction to underperformance is often an increase in training rather than rest, and this only serves to further exaggerate the recovery deficit.



Training alone is seldom the primary cause of overtraining, rather it appears to be the total amount of stress on the athlete, which exceeds their capacity to cope. Additional non-training related stress factors that can lead to an increased risk of overtraining syndrome include social, educational, occupational, economical, nutritional, travel as well as monotony of training.


Psychological Markers

Overtraining has been reported to involve a complex interaction of psychological stresses including individual cognitive, behavioural and emotional characteristics, as well as the skills of the athlete, environmental and social stresses.

The most promising tool for identifying the overtrained state, is reported to be the psychological mood state, and several validated tools have been used for this purpose. American collegiate swimmers were studied using the profile of mood state (POMS) questionnaire. When the mood state improved, training was increased, and when the mood state deteriorated, training was decreased. Using this method, the rate of overtraining was reduced from 10% to zero. They determined that the mood state was significant if it does not improve during tapering in the lead up to competition. Unfortunately, at this late stage, it may be too late for intervention and reversal of the syndrome. The recommendation from this study was that tapering and recovery is best performed throughout the season to enable regular monitoring of recovery

In the event of overtraining, the athlete must be educated, and reassured that less training rather than more, is the only way to improve their performance, and that it could take up to 12 weeks. Significantly less training is required, and the volume must be gradually increased to one hour of aerobic work prior to increasing the intensity. Cross training is recommended to avoid temptation of the athlete to over-train in their familiar sport.




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