But evidence suggests that juggling the two can benefit both academic and sporting performance. Research published in The International Journal of the History of Sport found that having "dual careers" provides motivation for training and preparation, stimulating athletes intellectually and relieving stress.
But are students who balance sport and study really better for it?
According to Professor Ian Henry, director of the Centre for Olympic Studies and Research at Loughborough University, having an outlet of interest other than sport helps athletes "to put their training and performance into perspective, allowing them to deal more effectively with the challenges of sport, including setbacks and injury".
Opportunities to get involved with sport at university are plentiful and the UK has some world-class sporting institutions. Loughborough University has dominated the British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) table, which ranks institutions based on sporting achievements, for the last decade.
"Their weeks are very pressurised, so top sportspeople are extremely organised, disciplined and efficient with their time, which are useful skills in the academic side of their lives," says Stephen Baddeley, director of sport at the University of Bath.
Self-discipline lends itself well to academic focus, helping to banish procrastination. "The mind wanders when doing essays, but if you develop a focus and know you have to use your time efficiently then it's a very transferable skill," says Baddeley.