Many studies have shown that performing in sport provides many benefits to a person’s physical and mental health. Along with those benefits of athletics, there may be some disadvantages to high-level, collegiate, athletic involvement when considering mental health. With the recent rise in collegiate athlete suicide numbers, many are questioning the mental health crisis in the student-athlete population. There is much to be considered when evaluating collegiate student-athletes’ risk for having mental health issues: increased demand of physical activity, tendency to be perfectionists, commitment to outside events, and lack of social life. Even with these extra burdens, studies still show that collegiate student-athletes have protection from mental health issues when participating in sport when compared to non-competing students. Rates of mental health in collegiate athletes compared to non-athletes are still lower, but gender, number of hours of intense sport, and team versus individualized sport all matter when considering risk for mental health issues in athletes. With these factors considered, female athletes who participate in individualized sport for greater than fourteen hours a week are considered high-risk to have mental health concerns. Further research is still needed to be performed to determine the efficacy of depression or anxiety screenings in a pre-performance sports physical and ways providers can implement these screenings in healthcare. Some adjustments and restrictions to the hours of intense sport allowed per week at the collegiate level should be considered to properly protect collegiate student-athletes from increases in depressive symptoms. Healthcare mental health screenings and participation restrictions could potentially slow the increasing suicide rates in collegiate athletes.
Gray OL. Mental Health Risk When Considering Participation in Collegiate Athletics. University of Lynchburg DMSc Doctoral Project Assignment Repository. 2022; 4(4).
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