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Covid-19: Pandemic and Mental Health of Athletes: Why are they being ignored?

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Since the Covid 19 pandemic has started it has put the entire world on standstill and so the various sporting events. The global outbreak of the pandemic has resulted in closure of stadiums, gyms, swimming pools etc. Many individuals are therefore not able to actively participate in their sporting or physical activites. Under this condition, many tend to be less physically active and might affect their Mental Health.

Lack of access to exercise can have an impact on mental health which can compound stress or anxiety. Possible loss of friends or families from the virus can have an impact on one’s mental wellbeing. Society perceives these athletes or sports person as “superhumans” with unfathomable willpower, speed, strength, skills, and abilities that can only aspire. This, of course, makes it difficult to grasp that these individuals can struggle with the mental health problems and illnesses as the general population. These athletes can be anyone as those who compete at professional, Olympic levels also.

Mental health of athletes 1 The North-Eastern Chronicle

Though high-quality studies and limited research is not available on the mental health and psychological well-being of elite athletes. However, in recent years mental health disorders (MHD) and mental health symptoms in athletes have been receiving increased attention and new research directions are being suggested and reported.

The perception that elite athletes are without mental health problems is being challenged and research is indicating that elite athletes can also struggle with mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, etc, especially during the time of this global pandemic.

The media has reported a rising number of elite athletes suffering from MHD, like Michael Phelps (Olympic swimmer), Marcus Trescothick (international cricketer), Victoria Pendleton (Olympic cyclist), Johnny Wilkinson (international rugby player), to mention just a few. Recently our Indian Cricket Captain Virat Kohli has also revealed he suffered through mental health issue after his failure in England tour in 2014.

During this time of Covid pandemic, the athletes also might have to go through hard quarantines(14 days). Not only that they have to stay in bio-secured bubbles, which means they can’t go out and enjoy their regular lifestyle. Because a breach of these bubbles could put an entire life at risk of them and their other colleagues or teammates.

Recommendations to Optimise Mental Health support for Sportsperson is to Education of athletes, coaches, support staff, friends and families about symptoms of different mental health conditions. Normalising and validating the issue of MHD. A Healthy and more sustainable environment is possible when athletes feel comfortable and can ask for help, without the fear of negative consequences for their career.

art 1 The North-Eastern Chronicle

The Covid pandemic has had and will continue have a considerable effect on sportsperson as well as their mental and physical wellbeing. As vaccines are out the only thing we can do that is to be on a fresh mindset till the safe reopening of sporting events as well as to maximise the benifits sports can bring in the age of Covid-19 and beyond.

Visuals by: Abiskar Banik

Article by Niladri Sekhar Dutta, The North-Eastern Chronicle

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