Background: The Short Form-36 (SF-36) is a valid and reliable generic indicator of health status. The scoring distributions for the general and specific populations have been extensively reported in the literature and vary according to age, gender, the type and severity of a medical condition, and socioeconomic status. However, normative data pertaining specifically to athletic populations are limited. The purpose of the present study was to establish SF-36 reference norms for athletes cleared for participation in intercollegiate sports.
Methods: Six hundred and ninety-six United States National Collegiate Athletic Association Division-I and II student athletes who had been cleared for participation in intercollegiate sports completed the self-administered form of the SF-36 at the time of pre-participation evaluations. Demographic information and history of injuries were also recorded.
Results: Compared with the general population and an age-matched sample of the general population, the athletes scored significantly higher in all health domains (p < 0.01) except for bodily pain (p = 0.05). Among the athletes, men scored significantly higher than women in the general health domain only (p = 0.0006). Athletes with no reported history of injury scored significantly higher than those with previous injuries in all health domains, except in role limitations due to emotional problems.
Conclusions: Intercollegiate athletes cleared for participation reported significantly higher SF-36 scores in comparison with a similarly aged sample of the general population. These normative values are important in the evaluation of health status of intercollegiate athletes before and after intervention.