What Are the Causes of Internal Stress in Sports?

Updated April 17, 2017

People undergo two main types of stress: internal and external. While external stress can come from a number of factors --- such as our job, injury or trauma --- internal stress has more to do with our health and emotions. Athletics and the team are affected by much more than just each player's athletic talent; the overall well-being of the team, which relies heavily on the emotions of each player, can greatly impact team dynamics.


Many factors can cause internal stress. Examples include nutrition and fitness, outlook, thoughts, anger, fear, memory and anticipation. Athletes may also feel great pressure to succeed, and if they err, they may feel like a failure. This fear can affect their playing negatively instead of making them strive to do better.


Injury, while typically an external stressor, can also affect internal stress. Injured athletes may have negative emotions surrounding their injury, causing them more than just physical stress. This problem becomes magnified during rehabilitation; an athlete who is experiencing a lot of internal stress may not get through rehabilitation as quickly as possible. Healing may start to feel impossible and overwhelming, and the athlete may want to give up and not work through the rehabilitation steps that are necessary to get him back in the game. Once an athlete overcomes his injury, he may continue to experience internal stress by worrying about reinjuring himself.

Symptoms and Cures

Athletes who are experiencing internal stress may exhibit one or more of several symptoms, including abnormally sore muscles, restlessness or fatigue, shortness of breath, intense sweating, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, loss of focus or irritability. To combat internal stress, an athlete may want to attend anger management classes, adjust her diet, add supplements to her daily routine and practice relaxation methods, such as yoga or meditation, on a daily basis.


Children who play sports may be experiencing internal stress. However, the signs in children won't replicate the signs in adults. Watch out for children who change their sleeping or eating patterns, who no longer want to be social, who have mood swings more often than usual and who suddenly perform poorly at a sport. Instead of putting added pressures and stress on your children, loosen the reins a bit and accept them for who they are.

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About the Author

As a full-time writer in New York's Hudson Valley, Lindsay Pietroluongo's nightlife column and photos have appeared regularly in the "Poughkeepsie Journal" since 2007. Additional publications include "Chronogram," the "New Paltz Sojourn," "About Town" newspaper and "Outsider" magazine. Pietroluongo graduated from Marist College with a B.A. in English.