8 February 2023 – Podium Analytics (“Podium”), the NGO and charity committed to reducing injury in sport, today launches its Mental Health Strategy to coincide with Children’s Mental Health Week 2023.
In the UK, one-in-six young people have a mental health problem, with more than 90,000 being referred to a mental health service in England in March 2022 alone1 – the equivalent of a full Wembley Stadium of children struggling in one month.
Podium aims to better understand and prevent the risk factors and the consequences of poor mental health to injury in sport. Young people describe feeling anxious, low, fearful and isolated following injury and many lose their confidence, self esteem and sense of purpose. This can have significant impacts on young people’s lives and futures if not dealt with early and effectively.
There is also an important, and as yet under-researched, reverse link: how having a poor mental state when playing sport impacts the likelihood of sustaining an injury, or how a good mental state helps prevent injury.
This is where Podium’s work will add value.
Podium’s ambitious goals, if successful, will provide far-reaching consequences for young people’s mental health in sport. The ultimate challenge for research and practice in schools and clubs is understanding if and how mental states can predict sports injury.
Beth Tweddle, Former Team GB Olympic gymnast and Podium Ambassador, commented: “It’s great to see Podium Analytics today launch its Mental Health Strategy. I know only too well, having suffered injuries from early on in my career, the link between sport injury and mental health. I think it is so important that we address the issue and collectively work to change the direction of travel. Podium’s work is a great step towards this – I look forward to seeing how it develops.”
The Mental Health Strategy includes measures such as:
- Developing sport-specific training for coaches and parents on creating mentally healthy sports environments.
- Designing sport-wide mental health screening tools, including methods of measuring mental states during competitions and training, as part of its partnership with the University of Oxford.
- Testing sport-specific mental health awareness, prevention and early interventions.
- Developing a regular survey to track population-level wellbeing, mental health and drop-out in sport, in order to inform patterns and trends, and sharing the results to aid policymakers at various levels.
- Creating a youth advocacy group to help young people communicate about their experiences, challenges and ideas for change.
The strategy aims to deliver four major changes to ensure that:
- Young people can take care of their mental health in relation to sports injury risk and recovery.
- Teachers, coaches and parents can manage mental risk factors for injury and support mentally healthy recovery.
- National Governing Bodies of sport take action to prevent mental risk factors for injury and support recovery with evidence-based regulations and protocols.
- Sport culture at all levels supports the link between injury, mental health and long-term participation.
Catherine Wheatley, Mental Health and Psychological Wellbeing Manager at Podium Analytics, commented: “Youth sport – at school or in clubs – is a great way of making healthy, rewarding connections that strengthen wellbeing and mental health for life. That is why Podium promotes mentally healthy sport: to prevent injuries and support long-term participation for all. This is an evolving journey. We are lucky to be working with outstanding partners in the worlds of youth sport and mental health, and we welcome challenge and inspiration as we work to tackle this complex but important issue. Getting this right will improve children and young people’s experiences in sport and in life. This is an exciting journey into research and science, with the potential to have a massive social impact.”
Joan Duda, Professor of Sport and Exercise Psychology at the University of Birmingham, and member of Podium’s Research Strategy Advisory Board, said: “It’s very heartening to see that Podium is taking an evidence-based approach to tackling an important issue in youth sports. I’m looking forward to working with the team of expert advisers and fellow researchers that Podium is bringing together."