The Mental Health of Athletes
London 22nd June 2017
The Education and training network (ETN) put together an impressive programme for their first national conference on the mental health of athletes.
The conference was headlined by Professor Steve Peters – a sports psychiatrist of international repute who shared insights for his 20 year career working in elite sports.
Other speakers included
Professor Alan Currie – Chair of the Royal College of Psychiatrists Sport and Exercise Group who started the day with an overview of psychiatric morbidity in sport. He emphasised that whilst exercise is good for mental health, athletes do not exercise primarily for the health benefits. Indeed the sports environment can contain additional risk factors for all kinds of mental health difficulties including eating disorders, depression and anxiety problems.
Dr Rod Jaques – Director of Medical Services at the English Institute of Sport followed with an honest overview of the pressures in modern sport and how these impact on the delivery of care and on those who work in sports medicine.
Dr Allan Johnston – Performance Health Innovations Ltd and State of Mind Sports described his work on building resilience within sports team and individuals. He drew an interesting parallel between sports medicine’s approach to ‘pre-habilitation’ of at-risk muscles and joints and strengthening ‘the mind muscle’ to respond to the demands of sport.
Dr Philip Hopley – Cognacity Ltd and Deputy Medical Director of the Priory Hospital was first to speak after lunch and shared his work on improving access to effective treatment for sportsmen and women with mental health problems.
Professor John Rogers has worked at the highest level in sports medicine in the UK. He is a former runner who began by sharing his personal experiences of overtraining and the impact this had on his health and performances. He gave a swift but comprehensive summary of our current understanding of overtraining syndromes and approaches to assessment and treatment.
Professor Hamish McAllister-Williams is a senior figure in psycho-pharmacology as well as an experienced runner. He began somewhat unnervingly by telling the audience that there is no sports specific data to guide prescribing when athletes have a mental health condition that needs treatment! Thankfully he followed with a detailed discussion of the sports specific factors to consider when making complex prescribing decisions with athletes.
Dr Kate Goodger is Director of Education at Chimp Management and has worked as a psychologist at six Olympic Games. She described her approach to working psychologically with athletes, teams and support staff in a range of settings.
Events concluded with an open question and answer session chaired by Professor Currie. The comments and questions were wide ranging – how to encourage sports participation via the ‘Olympic Legacy’, the needs of female sports participants in what can seem like a very ‘male’ world and ideas for the next conference. Watch this space!