The American College of Sports Medicine Statement on Mental Health Challenges for Athletes
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The American College of Sports Medicine Statement on Mental Health Challenges for Athletes

Aug 09, 2021

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recognizes the importance of developing the whole athlete. To achieve peak performance, it is important to be equally attentive to both physical and mental health. Approximately one-in-five adults live with a mental health condition during their lifetime. While physical activity is excellent for brain health, sports participation is not entirely protective against mental health challenges.

University and college level student-athletes face pressures from academics, as well as other possible triggers of stress. These triggers include missed classes due to off-campus sports competitions, being away from home for the first time, social isolation from students other than their teammates and adapting to constant visibility within their campus and communities. Approximately 30% of women and 25% of men who are student-athletes report having anxiety, and only 10% of all college athletes with known mental health conditions seek care from a mental health professional.

Professional and elite athletes also face mental health challenges, and data indicate that approximately 35% of elite athletes suffer from disordered eating, burnout, depression and/or anxiety. Limited privacy, inadequate recovery time and limited control or independence may also add to the stress of a professional or elite athlete.

Today, we use our collective voice to support the mental health of athletes. ACSM applauds the bravery of all athletes who have used the world’s stage to shine a bright light on the importance of mental health and encourages continued action to resolve these challenges. For additional information published by ACSM, including the importance of mental health, the benefits of physical activity for mental health, and interventions for those struggling with mental health, please access the resources below.

An Intervention for Mental Health Literacy and Resilience in Organized Sports

The Role of Exercise in Preventing and Treating Depression

Psychosocial Impacts of Sports-Related Injuries in Adolescent Athletes

The Psychological Burden of Retirement from Sport

Interval Training for Cardiometabolic and Brain Health

Promoting Physical Activity for Mental Well-Being