Sport coaches can play an influential role in athletes’ mental health help seeking through purposeful communication, destigmatization of mental health concerns, and supportive relationships. To positively engage in these behaviors, coaches require mental health knowledge (or literacy), positive attitudes about that knowledge, and self-efficacy to use that knowledge. Guided by a multidimensional health literacy framework, we conducted a content analysis of web content and scholarly literature to identify health education programming for coaches that addressed athlete mental health. A purposive sample of Olympic National Governing Bodies, collegiate athletic associations, high school sport associations, youth sport governing bodies, and the scholarly literature were analyzed. We found inconsistent programming regarding a range of mental health disorders, behaviors critical to mental health promotion, and critical components of mental health literacy. Implications and next steps for mental health literacy support for coaches are discussed.
Stephen P. Hebard, James E. Bissett, Emily Kroshus, Emily R. Beamon, and Aviry Reich
Luke F. Olsson, Michael C. Grugan, Joseph N. Martin, and Daniel J. Madigan
Perfectionism is a consistent predictor of athlete burnout. Researchers have therefore sought to examine the psychological mechanisms that may explain this relationship. In the present study, guided by Smith’s cognitive-affective stress model, we extend existing research by examining whether perceived stress is one such explanatory factor. A sample of 256 adult athletes completed measures of perfectionism (perfectionistic strivings and perfectionistic concerns), perceived stress, and burnout. Correlational analyses indicated that perfectionistic concerns was positively related to burnout, while perfectionistic strivings was either negatively related or unrelated to burnout. Tests of bias-corrected bootstrapped indirect effects showed that perceived stress mediated the positive relationship between perfectionistic concerns and burnout. This finding was evident when examining total burnout and all three burnout symptoms. It appears that athletes high in perfectionistic concerns are likely to experience heightened levels of stress in sport which may in turn render them more vulnerable to burnout.
Jana Fogaca, Illene Cupit, and Matthew Gonzalez
Although there is awareness of the impact of grief on survivors’ well-being, almost no research exists on the impact of death on sports team bereavement. The present study surveyed 40 members of athletic teams (coaches, staff, and athletes) from various levels to determine what happens in the aftermath of a team member’s death. Findings of the survey indicated that many of the respondents experienced acute grief responses affecting performance, which memorialization and community support was helpful whereas the news media was often not. In addition, a need for appropriate resources and a school bereavement policy specific to student athletes was seen. In line with the dual process model, the responses indicated use of both emotion focused and restoration focused coping. Implications of the findings suggested that addressing bereavement needs for athletes, and their coaches was tantamount to mitigating some of the complications associated with disenfranchised grief.
Jacob J. Levy, Terrance L. Tarver, and Hannah R. Douglas
Changes in exercise behavior and negative emotional states (i.e., depression, anxiety, and stress) in combat sport (e.g., boxing, wrestling, martial arts) athletes were examined the month prior to gym closures related to the COVID-19 pandemic (February 2020), and approximately 1 month following gym closures (May 2020). A total of 312 combat sport athletes from 33 different countries responded to the study solicitation. Results indicated a significant decrease in combat sport training following gym closures; however, participation in other exercise activities did not significantly change. Significant mean increases in depression, anxiety, and stress were found following combat gym closures. Regression analyses revealed that number of hours of participants participated in combat sport training added significant incremental variance explained in depressive and stress symptoms above and beyond that accounted for by sex differences, preexisting conditions, and training level. Practical implications regarding losses to preferred exercise activities are discussed.
Megan Drew, Trent A. Petrie, and Tess Palmateer
College student athletes face unique, sport-related stressors that may lead to, or exacerbate, mental health (MH) concerns and symptoms. Although the National Collegiate Athletic Association has identified MH screening as a best practice, minimal data exist regarding contemporary screening practices. We explored National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I (DI), Division II (DII), and Division III (DIII) athletic departments’ current MH screening practices (N = 264). Compared with DII/DIII (53%), a greater percentage of Division I (89%) conducted formal MH screening. At DII/DIII institutions, athletic trainers were more likely to both administer and review screeners than any other sports medicine professional; sport psychologists primarily oversaw these tasks at DI schools. DI, compared with DII/DIII, institutions were more likely to have had a student athlete attempt suicide (62% vs. 40%) and participate in inpatient treatment (69% vs. 43%). There is a clear need for the National Collegiate Athletic Association to continue to promote policies that support MH screening and to create mechanisms in which it can monitor institutional involvement.
Zachary L. Mannes, Erin G. Ferguson, Nicole Ennis, Deborah S. Hasin, and Linda B. Cottler
Over 80% of National Football League (NFL) retirees experience daily pain. Pain acceptance is an important psychological construct implicated in the intensity of chronic pain, though these findings have not been extended to NFL retirees. Therefore, the current study examined the association between pain acceptance and pain intensity among former NFL athletes. NFL retirees (N = 90) recruited from 2018 to 2019 completed questionnaires that assessed pain, substance use, and NFL career information. Multiple linear regression examined the association between current pain acceptance and pain intensity while adjusting for other risk factors of pain. NFL retirees reported average scores of 33.31 (SD = 10.00), and 2.18 (SD = 2.40) on measures of pain acceptance and pain intensity, respectively. After covariate adjustment, greater pain acceptance (β = −0.538, p < .001) was associated with lower pain intensity. These findings can further inform the behavioral and mental health care of retired NFL athletes.
Siobhan K. Fitzpatrick and Janine V. Olthuis
American student-athletes (SAs) are at heightened risk for hazardous alcohol consumption compared with their nonathlete peers. However, little is known about this risk or the influence of psychosocial predictors on drinking behavior among Canadian SAs. This study compared rates of alcohol use across Canadian SAs and nonathletes and investigated whether the use of athlete-specific psychosocial predictors can improve the prediction of alcohol use outcomes in SAs. Participants (179 varsity athletes and 366 nonathletes) completed anonymous self-report questionnaires. Results suggest that Canadian athletes are at a heightened risk for experiencing alcohol-related problems compared with nonathletes, with general psychosocial predictors explaining the majority of variance in SA alcohol use. However, and quite notably, athlete-specific positive reinforcement motives predicted SA binge drinking. This research provides some of the first evidence of drinking-related problems among Canadian SAs and supports the potential use of preventative efforts to help SAs develop safe strategies for alcohol use.
Carrie B. Scherzer, Jeremy Trenchuk, Meaghan Peters, and Robert Mazury
Athletes can be at elevated risk for developing eating disorders, the effects of which can be devastating. Few researchers have examined the influence of a predisposition toward an eating disorder on athletic injury. Exercise dependence might bridge the gap toward understanding this relationship. This study sought to examine the relationship between predisposition toward an eating disorder and exercise dependence and looked at both as predictors of athletic injury. College students (n = 132) completed the Eating Disorders Inventory and the Exercise Dependence Questionnaire, as well as provided demographic, activity, and injury information. Subscales of the Eating Disorders Inventory and Exercise Dependence Questionnaire were significant predictors of having at least one athletic injury in the preceding year. These findings suggest that both predisposition toward an eating disorder and exercise dependence may be contributing factors to injury.
Tsz Lun (Alan) Chu, Bailey Sommerfeld, and Tao Zhang
Building on recent research examining athlete burnout trajectories, this study implemented the developmental model of sport participation to compare emotional and physical exhaustion, reduced sense of accomplishment, and sport devaluation between age groups (specializing [aged 13–15 years] vs. investment [aged 16–18 years]) and gender (boys vs. girls) among U.S. high school athletes. Participants were 367 high school athletes (M = 15.53; 212 males; 186 specializing) across various individual and team sports who completed a survey assessing their demographic information, sport backgrounds, and burnout perceptions. A 2 × 2 multivariate analysis of covariance, controlling for training hours, showed greater emotional and physical exhaustion and sport devaluation in the investment than the specializing group, but no developmental differences in reduced sense of accomplishment. Contrary to our hypothesis, no gender or interaction effects were found. Findings inform interventions and future research that address the role of developmental stages and gender in athlete burnout.
Dean R. Watson, Andrew P. Hill, and Daniel J. Madigan
Attitudes toward help-seeking will contribute to whether athletes ask for support for performance and mental health issues when needed. While research outside of sport has found perfectionism is related to negative attitudes toward help-seeking, no studies have examined the relationship in sport. The authors provided the first test of whether perfectionism predicted attitudes toward both sport psychology support and mental health support. One hundred and sixty-six collegiate athletes completed measures of perfectionism and attitudes toward sport psychology support and mental health support. Multiple regression analyses revealed that perfectionistic concerns positively predicted closedness and stigma toward sport psychology support and mental health support, and negatively predicted help-seeking toward mental health support. However, perfectionistic strivings negatively predicted stigma toward sport psychology support and mental health support, and positively predicted confidence in sport psychology support and help-seeking toward mental health support. Athletes higher in perfectionistic concerns are less likely to seek support when required.