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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.