Equestrian media is showing an increasing interest in the impact of mental health on performance and general wellbeing of equestrian athletes. This study explores the awareness of mental health difficulties and psychological wellbeing within equestrian sport from the perspectives of equestrian athletes, instructors/coaches and parents. The exploratory nature of the research offered opportunity to use a dual approach including e-surveys and semi-structured interviews. Analysis of the qualitative data identified five key themes (Emotional Wellbeing in Balance; Emotional Wellbeing Imbalance; Wellbeing Imbalance—Impact on Equestrian Sportspeople; Impact of Equestrian Sport on Wellbeing; Regaining Balance) and 22 sub-themes. The findings determine a compelling need for education, promotion of sharing experiences, facilitation of specialist (clinical and sport) professional training and intervention as well as a review of regulations from equestrian Governing Bodies.
Hannah Butler-Coyne, Vaithehy Shanmuganathan-Felton and Jamie Taylor
Sara L. Giovannetti, Jessica R.G. Robertson, Heather L. Colquhoun and Cindy K. Malachowski
University student-athletes are equally vulnerable to mental health challenges compared to their non-athlete peers, but they access mental health services with less frequency. This study sought to explore the mental health issues experienced by Canadian student-athletes in order to address the question: how can Canadian universities better meet the mental health needs of student-athletes? An electronic survey was distributed to student-athletes at a large Canadian university. Data from 113 respondents were analyzed using descriptive statistics and content analysis. Stress and pressure were reported as the most prevalent contributors to mental health issues, and 47% of respondents indicated that there was a time in which they wanted to seek services for their mental health, but chose not to. Respondents identified mental health education for coaches and designating a healthcare professional within the athletic department as beneficial resources. Findings from this study can inform local and national mental health service planning for student-athletes.
Breanna Drew and James Matthews
The purpose of this study was to investigate the prevalence of depressive and anxiety symptoms within student-athletes and to examine protective factors which may act as a buffer against mental ill-health. A cross-sectional design was employed. A sample of 185 student-athletes (M = 20.77; SD = .50; 35% female) agreed to take part. Participants completed measures of depression, anxiety, psychological resilience and formal and informal help-seeking behavior. Thirty one percent of student-athletes reported moderate to severe symptoms of depression and/or anxiety. Student-athletes who reported requiring professional help for problems were more likely to record moderate to severe symptoms of depression and anxiety. Student-athletes who did not seek informal support were more likely to report symptom levels for depression outside the normal range. Higher resilience scores were associated with lower symptom reporting for both depression and anxiety. Practical implications for supporting student-athletes’ mental health across institutional, interpersonal and intrapersonal levels are discussed.
Misia Gervis, Helen Pickford and Thomas Hau
The purpose of this study was to investigate counselors’ professional understanding of the long-term psychological consequences of injury in UK football players. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 11 counselors who were registered to work for the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA). The interviews examined the counselors’ perception of the relationship between long-term injury and presenting mental health issues, the antecedents to those mental health issues, and recommendations for psychological intervention following injury. The critical finding was the mental health problems regularly presented to PFA counselors were often the psychological and behavioral consequences of long-term injury. Counselors recommended that early and sustained psychological intervention with long-term injured players would act as a preventative measure against future mental health issues.
Robert C. Hilliard, Lorenzo A. Redmond and Jack C. Watson II
Although factors involved with help-seeking have been widely studied in the general college population, college student-athletes have received less attention. The purpose of this study was to examine the moderating role of self-compassion on the relationship between public and self-stigma, and how self-stigma was associated with attitudes toward seeking counseling. A sample of 243 student-athletes from NCAA Divisions I and III participated in the study. Using structural equation modeling, self-compassion was not found to moderate the relationship between public and self-stigma. However, public stigma was positively associated with self-stigma, and self-stigma was negatively associated with attitudes toward counseling. A multigroup analysis did not find differences between males and females for the model. The results of this study have implications for professionals who work with college student-athletes and suggest that efforts should aim to reduce stigma and examine alternative factors that might improve attitudes toward mental health help-seeking.
Susanna Kola-Palmer, Samantha Buckley, Gabrielle Kingston, Jonathan Stephen, Alison Rodriguez, Nicole Sherretts and Kiara Lewis
Player welfare is an important development in supporting elite athletes during their professional careers. Little is known about how player engagement with player welfare provision impact on mental health. Over two consecutive years, professional rugby football league (RFL) players were invited to complete an anonymous online survey assessing psychological stress, athletic identity, and attitudes to player welfare provision. Findings indicate that nearly half of respondents experienced symptoms of anxiety and depression. Multivariate analyses suggest that higher psychological stress and athletic identity and less knowledge and less positive attitudes to RFL mental health support is associated with worse mental health, whereas older age is associated with better mental health. The study has identified some key variables to focus on in developing player care and support management, and also suggest directions for future research guiding player welfare support, especially regarding increasing positive attitudes to mental health supports.
Tobias Lundgren, Gustaf Reinebo, Markus Näslund and Thomas Parling
Despite the growing popularity of mindfulness and acceptance-based performance enhancement methods in applied sport psychology, evidence for their efficacy is scarce. The purpose of the current study is to test the feasibility and effect of a psychological training program based on Acceptance and Commitment Training (ACT) developed for ice hockey players. A controlled group feasibility designed study was conducted and included 21 elite male ice hockey players. The ACT program consisted of four, once a week, sessions with homework assignments between sessions. The results showed significant increase in psychological flexibility for the players in the training group. The outcome was positive for all feasibility measures. Participants found the psychological training program important to them as ice hockey players and helpful in their ice hockey development. Desirably, future studies should include objective performance data as outcome measure to foster more valid evidence for performance enhancement methods in applied sport psychology.
Jana L. Fogaca, Jack C. Watson II and Sam J. Zizzi
A fundamental issue in applied sport psychology is the development of competent professionals who can provide effective and ethical services to clients. The current study uses a qualitative longitudinal design to track the development of five novice sport psychology practitioners in their first year of practice. The research team analyzed and integrated data from surveys, interviews, and journals to understand the participants’ experiences and compare them to previous literature on practitioner development. Participants reported increased confidence and flexibility over time, and reduced their perceived anxiety and dependence on supervision. These changes were similar in nature to what has been reported for counseling trainees, but seemed to happen more quickly. These findings highlight important developmental characteristics of first year sport psychology practitioners, which can help graduate programs to tailor their supervision and training to their students’ needs.
Annamari Maaranen, Judy L. Van Raalte and Britton W. Brewer
Flikikammo is a troubling phenomenon in which athletes lose the ability to perform previously automatic backward moving gymnastics skills as a normal part of a routine. To better understand the effects of flikikammo over time, the confidence, perceived pressure, physical well-being, energy, and stress levels of gymnasts (n = 6) and cheerleaders (n = 4) were assessed weekly over 10 weeks. Half of the participants reported experiencing flikikammo at the start of the study, and half served as age, skill level, and sport-matched controls. Athletes with flikikammo indicated that pressure from coaches and higher energy levels were related to more severe flikikammo. For participants under the age of 18, higher levels of life stress positively correlated with flikikammo, but for those over 18, higher life stress was negatively correlated with flikikammo. These findings highlight the complexity of flikikammo and suggest that complex solutions may be needed to address flikikammo issues.
Rachael E. Flatt and Craig Barr Taylor
Eating disorders (EDs) are common amongst athletes, yet few receive treatment. Given that athletes have a unique set of risk factors for eating disorders and are faced with additional barriers to treatment, new models outside of face-to-face treatment are necessary to reach the population and provide more affordable, tailored, evidence-based care. One solution is to use digital mental health programs to provide primary or supplemental therapy. Digital programs can provide accessibility and privacy, and recent advancements allow for more personalized online experiences. However, there have been no studies to date that integrate technology-based tools to address the especially high prevalence rates of EDs in athletes. This paper describes how an integrated model that includes online screening linked to guided self-help programs, all adapted specifically for athletes, can be used to provide prevention and intervention of EDs in athletes.