Emotional Health and Eating
Billions of people around the world enjoy playing or watching sports as a great recreational activity. The object of almost any sport is to be the best at something. To be the best, an athlete must practice and train and consistently perform at the highest level possible. An athlete must push the body to the limit. If an athlete is to gain the best possible results from training and practice, the value of food and well balanced diet is of the utmost importance. Food becomes the main component of the human body. Even as food is being savored, it is meeting nutritional needs. Every humans life relies on food to provide daily energy.
While sports participation provides many benefits to individual health and well-being, athletes are exposed to additional risk factors that may impact their MH. The sports medicine physician and other members of the athletic care network are uniquely positioned to detect MH issues early and intervene appropriately. Providers must have a full understanding of how issues commonly manifest in the athletic population, and importantly, an awareness of the relevant psychological, cultural and environmental influences. The primary goal of this AMSSM position statement is to assist the team physician and other members of the athletic care network with the detection, treatment and prevention of a select range of psychological issues and MH disorders in athletes. An important component of management is an understanding of pharmacological treatment options including those that may be the most effective with the fewest side effects. Critical insight is needed into key personality issues (eg, ‘athlete identity’), demographic and cultural variables (eg, sexual orientation, gender identification) and environmental conditions (eg, hazing, bullying, sexual abuse) that can impact athletes and how interactions among these variables may contribute to MH issues. It is important for the athletic care network to be attuned to risk factors for MH disorders and to monitor athletic environments that may trigger or exacerbate psychological issues in athletes under their care.
The data from studies reporting larger samples, although limited in scope, suggest that elite athletes experience a broadly comparable risk of high-prevalence mental disorders (i.e. anxiety, depression) relative to the general population (Belem IC, 2014). That said, there may be subgroups of athletes at elevated risk of mental ill-health, including those in the retirement phase of their careers or those experiencing performance failure. As in the general population, major negative life events, including injury, may increase the risk of mental ill-health in elite athletes, though focused quantitative studies with adequate follow-up assessment periods are needed to confirm this. Findings regarding the prevalence of eating disorders and body image concerns relative to the general population were inconsistent. However, there was a tendency for higher vulnerability to these conditions in athletes involved in sports requiring a particularly lean body shape and in female athletes —the latter being consistent with the findings of general population studies. Objective data, based on the results of medical review and tests, would likely assist in the assessment of eating pathologies and help counter the limitations of self-reporting (i.e. underreporting) (Devantier C. , 2011).
In a word, one of the best things I found about the Sport Science Institute was the vast “Fact Sheet” section that included information on the following: Anxiety Awareness, Depression, Eating Disorder Awareness, Risk of Suicide, Bullying, Mental Health Referral Decision Worksheet, Mental Health Campus-Wide Assessment worksheet, a Mental Health Self-Assessment and a handbook for managing Student-Athlete Mental Health issues. All of these items could and should be used when implementing a mental health protocol on any college campus today.
Anshel MH, Si G. Coping styles following acute stress in sport among elite Chinese athletes: a test of trait and transactional coping theories. J Sport Behav. 2008;31(1):3–21.
Belem IC, Malheiros Caruzzo N, Andrade do Nascimento Junior JR, et al. Impact of coping strategies on resilience of elite beach volleyball athletes. BrazJ Kineanthrop HumPerf. 2014;16(4):447–455.
Devantier C. Psychological predictors of injury among professional soccer players. Sport Sci Rev. 2011;20(5/6):5–36.