By Ken Reed

I wrote a blog entry a couple days ago about mental health issues in sports.

Today Huffington Post has a column on mental health issues in sports by Alicia Romeo, M.D., a faculty member of the psychiatry department at the University of North Carolina’s Medical Center.

She raises a compelling question: “In an ‘all or nothing’ culture where weakness is anything short of the extraordinary, how does an athlete handle mental illness?”

We live in a society in which openly discussing mental health issues is still taboo. Now imagine how taboo the subject is in the sub-culture that is the male sports world … Macho men in team sports settings simply don’t talk about emotional or mental issues. It’s an unwritten rule, part of the code of sports manhood. The issue, while not as pronounced, is significant in the world of female sports as well.

That needs to change. Too many athletes are suffering in silence unnecessarily. Some of them end up killing themselves.

“Just like a torn ACL, an untreated mental illness can prematurely end athletic careers,” writes Romeo.

“And, unlike a ligamentous injury, an untreated mental illness can be fatal. At every level, from high school to elite athletics, a better understanding of the psychological stress on athletes is worth a closer look. In particular, recreational drug use, changes in athletic performance, energy, mood and sleep can be warning signs to coaches, trainers and teammates. Understanding and recognizing warning signs of depression and other mood disorders can lead to appropriate treatment that may save a career and a life.”

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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