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Effort focuses on mental health of young athletes

Oct. 10, 2013, 10:12 AM

The rate of mental illness is more than twice as high for those ages 18-25 than those age 50 and older, and participating in college athletics can add even more mental pressures for young adults.

Given the NCAA student athlete participation rates of more than 450,000 each year, the likelihood of Sports Medicine professionals encountering a student athlete with mental health problems is high.

To prepare for these encounters, the National Athletic Trainers’ Association unveiled new recommendations for developing a plan to recognize and refer college athletes with psychological concerns.

Alex Diamond, D.O., assistant professor of Orthopaedics & Rehabilitation and Pediatrics at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, was one of 11 national experts charged with developing the consensus statement.

“Athletic trainers are in a unique position to get to know athletes well and earn their trust. If a mental health problem arises, we think there should be a plan in place to get that athlete appropriately referred and evaluated,” Diamond said.

Psychological concerns for college athletes may include depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, violence or suicidal thoughts.

“There’s a stigma against mental illness, especially in college athletes who want to appear tough. But as we come to recognize the prevalence of mental illness in these young adults, we want to leverage athletic trainers as an important frontline resource to get them the care they need.”

The consensus statement, “Inter-association recommendations for developing a plan to recognize and refer student athletes with psychological concerns at the college level,” is published in the September-October issue of the Journal of Athletic Training.

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