Dr. Miller in clinic with patient

Jan 17, 2020 / Sports Medicine

Mental Health in Young Athletes

There is a growing interest and recognition in supporting the mental health of children and adolescents and in some ways, the needs of athletes are unique. The American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM) has published a consensus statement of the latest evidence on the topic. The statement includes recommendations to help health care providers and sports organizations take steps to improve the environment and expectations for young athletes. 

“This is an important first step in recognizing this population has different needs,” says Shane M. Miller, M.D., sports medicine physician. His practice is focused on musculoskeletal injuries and conditions and concussions in young and growing athletes. “More and more athletes are presenting with concerning signs or symptoms. We are fortunate to have resources on-hand to better evaluate them.” He is hopeful that research and publications like this will continue to improve his and other health care providers abilities to give comprehensive recommendations to parents and athletes in order to prevent mental health issues form occurring.

Here are a few things parents and coaches need to knowi:
  • Poor and insufficient sleep is highly correlated with mental health problems. Check out our tips on improving sleep in young athletes. 
  • Focusing on body image, especially with aesthetic sports, may lead to poor eating habits. The lack of energy from these choices have detrimental effects on overall health and performance.
  • Overtraining does not always bring value to the athlete’s performance. Often, overtraining causes injuries and decline in performance. Provide adequate rest and diversity in training activities.
  • Hazing and bullying behaviors influence an athlete’s mental health in the short and long terms. Encouraging teamwork and a supportive environment will keep children safe and likely improve their ability and interest in continuing in sports.
  • Stress increases an athlete’s risk of injury as well as the recovery from an injury.
  • Higher competition levels 
Though athletes competing at high levels may be at higher risk for some of these mental health challenges, consider the wellness of all young athletes. Maintain a positive environment with your young athlete and learn how to encourage resilience and positive coping skills.

Learn more about pediatric sports medicine. 

iChang C, Putukian M, Aerni G, et al. Br J Sports Med Epub ahead of print: [2019 Dec 10]. doi:10.1136/ bjsports-2019-101583

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