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Jan 2023 | Mental Health & Athletic Performance


January ushers in a new year, resolutions, hopes, but also some realities about mental health.

Athletic Therapists are fully aware of the increase in mental health issues and challenges confronting athletes.

As we take time to stop and encourage public discourse on mental health in different “Let’s Talk” opportunities, let’s also stop to think about the physical impact of mental health.

Athletic Therapy Ontario wants to give a shoutout to Mental Health for High Performance Sport for its remarkable effort to provide information, resources, guidelines and increased awareness of mental health in high performance sport.

Mental illness ranks highest among young adults. It’s the time of most development and life changes. As health care professionals working with youth daily, weekly, seasonally, Athletic Therapists (ATs) have to be alert to the environmental influences outside of sport as well as the youth athlete’s genetic predisposition that can signal early alerts to mental illness (CLICK HERE). The NCAA sport science institute reports “mental and physical health are inextricably linked… there is evidence supporting an elevated risk of injury among athletes who experience anxiety or depression, who abuse alcohol or who have an eating disorder …”

The OATA wants ATs to recognize that the athlete environment is not ‘normal’ and that athletes, particularly young athletes, experience pressures and expectations that are very different from non-athletes. We have a job to do and it is part of our training and our commitment as Safe Sport ambassadors.

No one is immune to mental health, not even elite athletes.

Image Source: Purcell & Rice (2019)


  • Chang, Cindy J. MD*#; Putukian, Margot MD, FACSM, FAMSSM†#; Aerni, Giselle MD‡; Diamond, Alex B. DO, MPH§; Hong, Eugene S. MD¶; Ingram, Yvette M. PhD‖; Reardon, Claudia L. MD**; Wolanin, Andrew T. PsyD††. Mental Health Issues and Psychological Factors in Athletes: Detection, Management, Effect on Performance, and Prevention: American Medical Society for Sports Medicine Position Statement. Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine 30(2):p e61-e87, March 2020. | DOI: 10.1097/JSM.0000000000000817

  • Ekelund R, Holmström S, Stenling A. Mental Health in Athletes: Where Are the Treatment Studies? Front Psychol. 2022 Jul 4;13:781177. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2022.781177. PMID: 35859831; PMCID: PMC9289539.

  • Purcell, R., Gwyther, K. & Rice, S.M. Mental Health In Elite Athletes: Increased Awareness Requires An Early Intervention Framework to Respond to Athlete Needs. Sports Med - Open 5, 46 (2019).

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