Toward the end of last year, Society Chairman Professor Graham N. Smith wrote an article entitled ‘Mind Matters Count’ in his Chairman’s message. On #WorldMentalHealthDay2018 it seemed fitting to revisit this article and focus on the importance of mental health in the sporting arena.
Mind Matters Count
Over the past few months there have been two issues that seem to have dominated many of the sports pages and media outlets. The first has been about concussion and the second mental health issues in sport. Whilst both of these are separate concerns and have their own serious implications and consequences, they are also inherently linked together too. As such, it is imperative that, not only healthcare and sports medicine practitioners are aware of the symptoms of both, but also that coaches, parents and teachers are cognisant of how each may manifest itself too.
Imagine being a sports person who is admired, befriended by everyone and hero worshipped from an early age. Imagine how it must feel if this is suddenly taken away through injury? Similarly, the natural consequences of aging may also mean that your ‘shining star’ starts to wane and not be as sought after - how would that make you feel? How would you feel if someone asked you ‘Didn’t you used to be…?’ when in fact you know you are still the person to whom they refer? It is all of these factors, along with many more, that cause changes in personality and that sense of wellbeing that is so important to strong mental health.
We know from recent research that Concussion, either as a result of one major trauma or a series of repetitive collision injuries, can cause minor personality changes that initially might be difficult to perceive. Whilst repetitive minor head injuries are managed and the recognition of the consequences has improved significantly over the past few years, what are the long term effects? Do we actually relate these to some of the mental health issues and problems that may occur years after sports participation has either stopped or reduced?
It is so important that anyone involved in the treatment, management and coaching of sports participants understands that the minor personality changes that occur might ultimately have major consequences in the long term. Understanding these consequences, being able to recognise them and knowing how they should be managed is just as important as being able to treat an injured ankle or a knee. It is also why we in The Society of Sports Therapists recognise the importance of these issues and applaud those colleagues who are creating a greater awareness of them.
Professor Graham N. Smith
The Society of Sports Therapists