By Julianna Fohner

“This happened to me”
Last spring, during my freshman lacrosse season, I suffered multiple injuries that caused
me to struggle with not only the physical aspect of my sport but also the mental aspect.
At the beginning of the season, I had two high ankle sprains. With this injury happening in the
most crucial part of the season when everyone was trying to earn their spot on the team, I was
immediately filled with a lot of stress and anxiety. Not only am I a freshman trying to find a spot
on the field and team, but now I am in pain and struggling to perform at my highest level. This
made it very difficult to have confidence in myself and my abilities. After a couple weeks, my ankles were not healing, but I wanted to play and prove to myself that I was good enough to not
only just play but have a starting spot as well. I continued to play through the physical pain, but
it is much harder to play through the mental pain. Later in the season, I got a concussion that
affected my play dramatically. I was forced to sit out of two important ODAC games and was
not able to practice for multiple weeks. I was still experiencing symptoms of a concussion while
trying to pass the test to get to play again. I felt the pressure to pass these tests even though I was
still hurting. This period of time put my mental health in a weird place and made me think about
things differently. I looked at injuries and time off from my sport differently. I also began to take
my mental health much more seriously and became more involved in athlete mental health

“My story is not unique, here’s the problem”
These are the public health problems present in my story about injury prevention and safety:
physical exercise, athletic training, and mental health. Injuries in sports are very common among
athletes and those who participate in physical activity. I would say that injuries are worse in some sports than others, but it is the risk you take when participating in sports. Not only is physical
injury important, but mental illness among athletes has become especially important.
There have been many suicides among athletes in the past few years. Mental health advocacy for
athletes has become a louder conversation than ever before.

“Here is a non-profit working to solve the problem”
Athletes for CARE is a non-profit organization that is working to solve the problem of
athlete safety and mental health. The organization was created by athletes and brings athletes
together as one voice to advocate for education, research, and compassion when dealing with and
addressing important health issues (1). Their main goal is to improve global standards of safety,
health, and quality of life for athletes of all ages. They want more athletes to use their voices to
advocate for themselves and other athletes as well (2). If no one speaks up about the issues
athletes are facing, no change will ever be made. This non-profit is different from others that deal
with athletes. Athletes for CARE is created and run by former and current athletes. Therefore,
they understand the physical and mental struggles of being an athlete and can help work toward
finding help and solutions to the issues athletes face today.

“Here’s what you can do to help, right now”
As an athlete, I can use my voice to advocate for myself and others. I can talk to my
fellow athletes about the struggles we all face with injuries and mental health. Athletes can open
up to their coaches and teammates about what they are going through in order to normalize athlete mental health. By doing this, people will be more open to the idea of athlete mental
health and the big impact it has on your life. I am a part of The Hidden Opponent here at
Shenandoah University. The Hidden Opponent is a club that many colleges have added that
advocates for student-athlete mental health. We are working to change the stigma of student-
athlete mental health in sports culture by addressing it head-on. Here at SU, we have open
discussions about mental health that allow athletes to speak openly about the struggles that
they face with being a student and an athlete. It has become a safe community and support
system among the student-athletes here at SU, and we are continuing to grow and educate others
about our message.


Athletes for care. (n.d.). Retrieved October 2, 2022, from
Home: The hidden opponent. My Site. (n.d.). Retrieved October 2, 2022, from

Categories: Home, op ed, Sports

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