Commentary

Be on the lookout for anxiety in young athletes

According to the National Institute for Mental Health, it’s estimated that about 32% of all adolescents in the USA have some form of anxiety and about 8% have what would be classified as severe anxiety.

It shouldn’t be surprising then that the estimates for anxiety disorders in young athletes is also high.

While there are only a limited number of high-quality studies about anxiety specific to the athletic population, it’s still estimated that more than 30% of collegiate student-athletes have experienced overwhelming anxiety.

Anxiety disorders have a profoundly negative impact on quality of life as well as overall health. We also have evidence that student-athletes with preseason anxiety and depression are statistically higher risk for developing in-season sport-related injuries.

The exact mechanisms in which this happens are unknown, but it’s clear that recognition and treatment are critical.

The good news is that when anxiety and depression are recognized, they can be successfully treated and lead to substantial improvements in quality of life. As coaches, parents, and teammates we can go a long way to helping those in need by recognizing possible signs of anxiety or depression.

The graphic below, provided by the NCAA, gives us some helpful signs to be on the lookout for. Let’s remove the stigma around mental illness, recognize it, and get these young people the help they deserve.


KEY POINTS:

It’s estimated that about 30% of collegiate student-athletes have experienced overwhelming anxiety.

Anxiety and depression, when untreated, have negative effects on quality of life, physical health, and also lead to increased sport injury risk.

Early recognition and treatment are critical, helpful tips are provided in the attached graphic from the NCAA (link).

(Dr. Dev K. Mishra, a Clinical Assistant Professor of orthopedic surgery at Stanford University, is the creator of the SidelineSportsDoc.com online injury-management course, now a requirement for US Club Soccer coaches and staff members. Mishra writes about injury recognition and management at SidelineSportsDoc.com Blog, where this article first appeared.

1 comment about "Be on the lookout for anxiety in young athletes".
  1. Wooden Ships, July 22, 2018 at 12:14 a.m.

    While teaching at the university level, there were a number of studies citing the high percentage of college students (45%) that had acute episodic anxiety. This was in the early 2,000’s. I’m not without empathy, but the real tragedy is not addressing the fragility of so many young people. 

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