Psychological issue in sport and the risk factors for athletes.
There are a variety of issues for professional/elite athletes, and their levels of physical activity, which can compromise health. This can include overtraining, injury, burnout, or increased risk of physical consequences, such as, sudden cardiac death, eating disorders, allergies and substance misuse. Their vulnerability is that athlete’s sport is not a job, but their life, their passion, their prestige, income and self dignity.
The sport and their relationship with sport, represents their identity and self worth. This fundamental identity may be both unconscious and conscious to varying degrees. Since dedication can take place from an early age, with great sacrifice, when demise occurs, the top level athletes have few other areas to express themselves, or gain financial remuneration. When failure becomes manifest, such individuals are potentially vulnerable to mental illness, such as depressive types of illnesses. This can be exacerbated with those who have a tendency for perfectionism, some can have obsessive compulsive traits.
Thus if injury occurs, the reaction can be compared to a grief process, akin to bereavement; for it is in the real sense, a loss of dignity, autonomy, control and a real threat to their livelihood. The more extreme the training demands, including competition; the greater the risk of injury and thus mental health consequences. Essentially in sport at top levels mental health is subject to more pronounced negative attitudes, such as denial and stigma. This can negatively impact upon the admission of mental health problems and help seeking behaviour, to seek treatment.
Ref: Setting the bar: athletes and vulnerability to mental illness; British Journal of Psychiatry (2012) 200, 95-96
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