On this #WorldMentalHealthDay, we want to celebrate the growing appreciation of the importance of the holistic wellbeing of athletes, in which the discussion around the mental health impact of injury is creeping up the agenda.
Participation in physical activity and sport is good for our mental health: it is linked to higher levels of self-esteem and self-confidence, and a better quality of life. With rates of mental health difficulty rising over the last 20 years, and especially since the start of the pandemic, the importance of taking care of mental health and wellbeing is more important than ever.
For athletes of all ages and standards, being unable to partake in physical activities due to injuries can take a toll both physically and mentally. Podium, in association with YouGov, recently surveyed a representative sample of over 2,000 UK adults, and found that Britons would like to see a more balanced view of mental and physical health in sports. 70% of adults, and 75% among active sports club participants, want sport’s governing bodies to weigh mental and physical health equally. The younger generation’s opinions align with this dual focus: 71% of young people aged 16–17 believe sports coaches should treat mental and physical health problems as equally important.
When identifying the most pressing issues in sports today, while only 5% of adults highlighted mental health, this doubled to 10% among those aged 18–24 and 13% among 16–17 year-olds, underscoring a generational shift in priorities.
Mental health is an important issue at Podium Analytics. Earlier this year, we partnered with the Centre for Mental Health to investigate the mental health impact of sport injury on young people. They told us about feelings of fear and frustration, worries about the future and a loss of self-confidence and self-esteem. Worryingly, they told us about returning to sport before they were physically or psychologically ready. While some feel well-supported by family and coaches, others pinpointed behaviours and cultures that overlook or dismiss stress, pressure, or concerns about injury and recovery. The lack of peer support, competitive pressures, and fears of falling behind post-injury were also highlighted.
The young people we spoke to suggested club or National Governing Body-led structured plans to support injury recovery and return to play, which could encompass regular contact from coaches, social engagement opportunities with the team, and both physiological and mental health support. This more holistic approach to athlete injury management will not only address the physical needs of recovery, but also nurture the mental resilience and community approach to return-to-play.
At Podium Analytics, we remain at the forefront of spearheading discussions and initiatives that advocate for a well-rounded approach to athlete wellness. Through continuous research, education, and collaboration, we endeavour to bridge the gap, ensuring that the narrative of mental health resonates with equal significance alongside physical health in the sporting arena.
We invite schools and clubs to sign up for our #SportSmart app. Log injuries, streamline communication between schools and clubs, and access educational resources along with injury tracking and recovery management tools to support players’ mental health during their recovery and return to sport post-injury.