Guidelines set for IDing mental health issues in young athletes

March 2, 2015 / Sports Medicine
Leaders in youth sports want programs to be capable of identifying mental health issues in athletes the way we’re now able to address concussions. Monday, they made a significant step forward.

PrintThe National Athletic Trainers’ Association and the Youth Sports Safety Alliance released a new set of guidelines at the 2015 Youth Sports Safety Summit in Dallas. They were created to address issues such as depression, eating disorders and anxiety that often affect athletes yet go unnoticed.

Timothy Neal chairs a task force that created the recommendations for recognizing and addressing the issues in young athletes.

“A lot of people stigmatize mental health issues and say, ‘Oh, the person is just soft. The person needs to toughen up.’ Well, the person making that statement has not really been affected by it because if you’ve actually seen it and had to deal with it, then it becomes a big deal,” said Neal, former head athletic trainer at Syracuse University, according to USA Today. “And unfortunately parents are afraid of having their child stigmatized as having a mental health issue for fear that if a coach on the collegiate level hears about it that may sour them on a potential scholarship. … It gets back to not understanding.’’

According to USA Today, Neal specifically cited these circumstances that could lead to mental health problems:

• Bullying and hazing: Neal said that for a young athlete already prone to anxiety or depression it could be a triggering mechanism.

• Year round sports: “You take adolescents and they already have their own unique stressors just being an adolescent … Then you add in stressors of year-round participation. …. Those reduce recovery time and affect their sleep. … People who are more prone to psychological concerns are at greater risk.”

• Injuries: “All of a sudden their identity is threatened because they’re injured and they’re out. They’re not part of the team. … Dealing with the psychological component of day in and day out rehab is very wearing.”

Click here to read the complete story from USA Today.

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