Helping the Hive

The Mental Health Affects in College Athletes

Nigel I Duberry

The prevalence of the effect of sports injuries on mental health in collegiate athletes is an ongoing battle in the United States every year. Each year in the U.S., there are about 20,000 injuries in the NCAA. There is known research that proves when college athletes get injured, they all seem to have a psychological reaction to their injury. Substance abuse, disordered eating, and depression are the common reactions these athletes face. As these injuries continue to happen yearly, it’s important for coaches and school faculty to be able to identify these reactions in an athlete after an injury.

To help these athletes and possibly get rid of these reactions, research would need to be conducted to examine the injured collegiate athlete community. Coaching staffs and school faculty would need to come together to let these athletes know it’s okay to go through what you go through when you’re injured. Staff would need to know what signs to look for after an athlete gets injured. Also, the athletes themselves would need to be able to recognize when they are not okay mentally due to these injuries and go get help when needed. Give them the option to sign up with the AAADF (Athletes Against Anxiety and Depression Foundation) to tell their story and reach out for help.

Being a college athlete, this topic is extremely relatable. I’ve been a victim of these psychological reactions and I have close friends who have also experienced these reactions as well. August 2017 is when I came to Shenandoah University to start my football career. I was recruited to come to SU, so everyone had high expectations for me. The first day of football camp I pulled my hamstring pretty bad. Pulling your hamstring isn’t good because once you pull it, it turns into a reoccurring injury depending on your body type and build. I wasn’t able to run or walk so I had to sit out of camp. Also, I missed the first scrimmage and first in season game against Gallaudet University.

Not being able to practice and prove that I belong was what really got to me. The first week of camp went by and I started to experience feelings that I can’t fully explain. I was sad and frustrated, but also just wanted to be isolated. During team meals my teammates would always ask if I was ever going to eat anything and I would always say yes, but in reality, I was only eating the smallest bowls of fruits. For a dude my size, eating small portions like that daily doesn’t make any sense. When we would have team meetings, I was never really mentally in the meeting. I would always have moments where I would zone out and just think about my injury- kind of like tunnel vision moments you could say.

Those two weeks of not being able to practice I was in rehabilitation for my hamstring. The trainers would have to motivate me every day to put 100% effort into rehab because I was acting like it was the end of the world. While in rehab I was introduced to about 19 exercises to strengthen and slightly stretch my hamstring. I was scared to do the exercises because I felt I was going to re injure myself. This was definitely a PTSD type of situation. I originally pulled my hamstring from over stretching it, and most of the exercises they had me doing were stretches. My fear got to the point where I wouldn’t do all the sets and reps- and I would half-ass the exercises. There would be sets with 15 reps that I would have to do, and I’d end up only doing maybe half of them.

Since this injury, I’ve stayed close with the trainers and became good friends with my strength and conditioning coach. My coach helped me with the anxiety I was having with exercises that were solely for my hamstring. Now I am a senior and I have pulled both of my hamstrings more than 3 times. I currently have one season left. There are athletes out there who have had similar problems and have the people to help them get through it, but they don’t know how to express their feelings when injured.

For communities and people willing to help these athletes fight their mental health battles, you can post mental health awareness content on all social media platforms that these college athletes are facing due to injuries taking them away from the sport they love. Similar to how the mental health social media community post suicidal hotlines on a daily basis is how you can post the AAADF website and number on social media regularly.

I’ve heard arguments when people think athletes don’t go through struggles just because we are athletes. They think everything is easy and given to us just because we’ve been recruited to go to school to play a sport. In reality that’s not the case. Us athletes go through what any other regular student or person would go through. At the end of the day, we are still human and should be treated as such. So, this topic should be treated as severely important because you never know what these mental health issues could lead to.

My message to all athletes is please don’t be afraid to get help if you need it. Don’t listen to the outsiders, do what is right for you and your mental wellbeing. It doesn’t matter how old you are, if you are a student or an athlete going through this- reach out.

Contact Information for the Counseling center at SU:

counseling@su.edu 540-665-4530 Cooley Hall Rooms 301-307

Categories: Helping the Hive

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