Sports medicine and psychiatry

Sports medicine is about ensuring that sportsmen and women get good treatment when needed – in respect of psychiatric care they often don’t we want to a part of addressing this.

It is becoming increasingly known that psychiatric conditions of all kinds are found in sporting populations. Common mental health problems such as depression and anxiety are at least as prevalent in sport as in the general population and conditions like eating disorders and ADHD more so. The mental health needs of those who pursue sport should be addressed in as comprehensive a manner as their physical health needs. Elite sport brings with it specific stressors including physiological performance stressors, self-esteem, funding, continuous assessment, a nomadic existence, media interactions and team dynamics. Athletes may need interventions of a clinical nature from trained psychiatrists to deal the psychological consequences of these factors.

Sportsmen and women deserve quality psychiatric but the lifestyle of a professional sportsperson may make it difficult to access mainstream health services and there may be a hurdle of stigma to be overcome before an individual can seek help.

For those who enjoy sport below the level of the professional, there may be fewer obstacles but nonetheless good psychiatric care requires an understanding of the role of sport in their life and that returning to sport is integral to the recovery journey.


Exercise medicine and psychiatry

Exercise medicine is about using exercise as an intervention (in obesity, in cardiac rehabilitation and more).  In psychiatry practice the opportunities to harness exercise as an intervention are very broad indeed – helping adolescents struggling with ADHD; developing confidence, motor and social skills in LD; an intervention for primary care levels of stress/depression/anxiety; promoting social inclusion and recovery in severe chronic illness; an intervention in metabolic syndrome; sustaining cognitive function and vitality into old age.

In many health care systems psychiatrists concentrate their time on those most disabled and marginalised by mental illness. It is here that sport and exercise can be harnessed as the route to recovery and to promote social inclusion by building links with sport and leisure organisations.

Standardised Mortality Rates (SMR) are known to be greatly elevated in severe mental illness largely as a consequence of the higher rates of risk factors such as smoking, poor diet and low levels of physical activity. All are modifiable risk factors and for the latter this means building relations between the world of sport and physical activity and mental health services.


Sport, stigma and mental health

Sport has an important cultural role and athletes are role models for large numbers of people. In consequence an athlete who discloses a mental health problem can assist greatly in encouraging others to seek appropriate help. As the site develops we will include more information on anti-stigma projects in the sporting world.

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