Athletes: Beyond the Field
Whenever we attend sports events, we sit for hours watching the exploits of athletes, cheering them on and marveling at their physical skills. To many, professional athletes are heroes living the dream of fame and fortune in the world of sports. Amateur and student athletes also inspire the schools and communities in which they share their talents. Whether athletes or onlookers, sports are a binding experience–a shared challenge that athletes strive to fulfill and fans enthusiastically support.
But just like every other vocation, an uncounted number of athletes suffer from mental and physical wellness issues.
Athletes face unique physical and mental challenges, regardless of whether they're sharing their talents in a superdome stadium or a high school football field. Through exhausting training and intensive competition, they push their bodies beyond what many of us can imagine. However, there is an untold story behind every great athlete, every Super Bowl win, and every celebrated victory.
Due to the intense nature of the environment in which that practice and compete, athletes are often hesitant to share stories of their personal struggles with mental or physical wellness. Whether it's concerns about a heart condition from overtraining, performance-related anxiety, or worries over brain diseases like chronic traumatic encephalopathy, athletes often have a common, untold story that they are hesitant to discuss. Worries about reputation and future career options can often make it difficult for athletes to
But due in part to some recent high-profile cases, many are beginning to realize the importance of addressing the mental health of athletes and not just their physical condition.
People from all walks of life suffer from a range of mental illnesses. Roughly 44 million Americans experienced some form of mental illness in 2015 (the most recent year for which numbers are available), according to estimates by the National Institute of Mental Health. That’s nearly one in five people aged 18 or over.
Athletes may be at increased risk, according to research by Lynette Hughes and Gerard Leavey of the Northern Ireland Association of Mental Health, who found that factors such as injuries, competitive failure and overtraining can lead to psychological distress. An NCAA survey of athletes found over the course of a year that 30% reported feeling depressed while half said they experienced high levels of anxiety.
*NOTE: The athletes below have publically disclosed their challenges with mental wellness.
Former pittsburgh steelers quarterback
Admitted to dealing with anxiety attacks and depression.
Professional basketball player
Admitted to dealing with unipolar depression.
Former oakland raider
Received five years probation and orders to be treated for bipolar disorder in relation to charges in 2005.
Former nba player for chicago bulls
Diagnosed with clinical depression.
former football professional and president of Earl Campbell Meat Products, Inc.
Former u.s. olympic diver
Was diagnosed with major depression in 1994 after a spinal injury that forced her to retire.
Miami Dolphins running back and Heisman trophy winner
Diagnosed with social anxiety disorder.
Professional pga golfer
Battled alcoholism, gambling problems and bipolar disorder.
Many of the athletes above share one thing in common:
They're operating outside their BestStressZone™
© 2019 Carol J. Scott, MD, MSEd, FACEP
The information and reference materials contained here are intended solely for the general information of the reader. It is not to be used for treatment purposes, but rather for discussion with the patient's own physician. The information presented here is not intended to diagnose health problems or to take the place of professional medical care. The information contained herein is neither intended to dictate what constitutes reasonable, appropriate or best care for any given health issue, nor is it intended to be used as a substitute for the independent judgment of a physician for any given health issue.