Within rugby, a plethora of research has focused on male rugby players, with some recent attention being directed to examining their mental health. Such attention has not been evident for their female rugby counterparts. The aims of this study were to ascertain levels of mental health literacy (MHL) and explore demographic differences in United Kingdom semielite rugby players who identified as women, and examine whether MHL is associated with better mental health outcomes and general help-seeking intentions. In total, 208 semielite women rugby players completed an online multisection questionnaire measuring MHL, general help-seeking intentions, distress, and well-being. Overall, most players scored a low rating of well-being; however, those who indicated a previous mental health problem exhibited significantly higher levels of MHL. Players were more likely to display general help-seeking intentions toward an intimate partner or a friend than a health care professional. High levels of distress were reported in 64.4% of players, particularly those who had been previously medically diagnosed with a mental disorder and bisexual rugby players. MHL was significantly, positively correlated with general help-seeking intentions, but not significantly correlated with distress or well-being. This study is the first to examine MHL in women rugby players and suggests that strategies devised by multidisciplinary teams of experts to help promote, engage, and offer tailored mental health support to women rugby players would be beneficial. Further investigations exploring the determinants of, and barriers to, MHL among women rugby players would be worthwhile to better understand and support players throughout their sporting career.
Shakiba Oftadeh-Moghadam and Paul Gorczynski
Shakiba Oftadeh-Moghadam and Paul Gorczynski
The aim of this systematic review was to investigate the prevalence of mental health symptoms and disorders in rugby players. Six electronic databases were searched in December 2020. Studies were included if they provided quantitative data on mental health symptoms and disorders and consisted of adult rugby players. Eight studies were included, covering symptoms of anxiety, depression, alcohol use/misuse, distress, sleeping/sleep disturbance, and eating disorders/adverse nutrition behaviors. Prevalence of mental health symptoms ranged from 6% (depression) to 68.8% (alcohol use/misuse). Most rates were similar to the general population, while symptoms of sleeping/sleep disturbance were lower, and symptoms of eating disorders/adverse nutrition behaviors and alcohol use/misuse were higher than the general population. One study included female rugby players. Epidemiological evidence comprising of rigorous diagnostic data and inclusive of gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, and other protected characteristics is needed to inform future mental health support in this population.
Tom Webb, Paul Gorczynski, Shakiba Oftadeh-Moghadam, and Laura Grubb
Research into the mental health of female sport match officials is scarce, despite verbal and physical abuse being commonplace. Twelve female match officials officiating male and female matches took part in semistructured interviews, investigating their experiences and understanding of their mental health. Deductive thematic analysis identified four overarching themes: male and female football environments; abuse, sexism, and homophobia in football; formal and informal support networks; and mental health knowledge and experience—accessing services. The results revealed toxic, abusive, male-dominated environments that included sexist and derogatory language, negatively affecting their mental health. The female match officials struggled to ascertain mechanisms for support and identified that the educational courses and local organizations did not provide mental health information or training, and match officials often experienced poor mental health during and after matches. Increased engagement with mental health literacy and policy change from governing bodies is required, given the unique challenges female match officials face.
Shakiba Oftadeh-Moghadam, Neil Weston, and Paul Gorczynski
This feasibility study aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of an educational intervention on stigma toward mental health symptoms and disorders, mental health literacy, and help-seeking intentions among U.K. semielite women rugby players. Seven semielite women rugby players participated. An A-B-A single-case experimental research design was used to assess stigma toward mental health symptoms and disorders, mental health literacy, and help-seeking intentions at baseline, intervention, and follow-up phases. The intervention was successful in enhancing the players’ mental health literacy and reducing stigmatizing attitudes toward seeking professional psychological help. Acknowledging the study’s small sample size, the findings revealed that there is a need for scaffolding to support future developments, advancements, and maintenance of mental health support in women’s rugby. Practical implications of future findings from a larger-scale study may lead to policy reformation across the game to inform and improve systemic mental health support for women rugby players.
Denise M. Hill, Matthew Cheesbrough, Paul Gorczynski, and Nic Matthews
Through an empirical phenomenological methodology, the study examined the short- and long-term consequences of choking in sport. Eleven intermediate golfers (10 male, 1 female; age 23–50 years, M = 34.6, SD = 8.9) with handicaps of 6–18 (M = 10.91, SD = 3.98) completed phenomenological interviews that explored the perceived psychological impact of their choking episode(s). While the reported short-term consequences were negative (i.e., collapse in performance standards, limited attention/emotional control, and negative affect), most participants thought the long-term impact of choking was constructive, for it encouraged adversity-related growth. However, a small number of golfers identified the long-term consequences as highly destructive, including a loss of self-confidence, withdrawal from the sport, and, in 1 case, lowered self-worth. The findings of the study extend the choking literature by informing strategies that can be used to encourage constructive, rather than destructive, consequences from any choking episode that athletes may experience.