A majority of online resources claim that sports do improve one’s mental wellbeing. A lot of these websites provide links to outside resources backing up their claims, there is a surprising amount of data on the subject. Playing a sport at a high school or college level can raise dopamine levels as well as other ‘happy chemical’ levels. There are studies inferring that playing a sport can make you happy and ‘cure’ depression and anxiety.

These websites don’t take a lot of factors into consideration, only the facts that the person is a student and they play a sport. Student-athletes encounter many other factors in their day to day lives. Playing a sport as a student can put a lot of pressure on the individual, and it takes a lot of time and commitment with the possibility of being injured. If an athlete gets injured, it could be a huge blow to their mental and emotional health, not only their physical health. It’s as much as a mental battle as it is a physical one.

Many of the symptoms reported when and after an athlete is injured actually align with multiple depression and anxiety identifying symptoms. Being injured in a sport can open the gateway to multiple mental illnesses that have been dormant in an individual, can worsen current mental illnesses, and one can even develop PTSD depending on the severity of the injury and the context surrounding that injury. If the individual was dependent on the sport for fostering a sense of happiness or supplying the chemicals needed to maintain mental stability and can no longer play due to an injury, what do they do then? It’s a difficult transition for many student-athletes, especially if they put all their time and effort into the sport.

While injuries are a major concern in the sports industry, it’s still important to recognize the data that does say that playing a sport as a student can improve mental health. These sports can foster long-term feelings of happiness and other positive feelings, as can encourage further exercise habits or encourage students to continue playing or participating in a sport as an adult. The environment and culture can push one to work their hardest and ultimately feel a sense of satisfaction from what they have accomplished in a sport.

Overall, there are multiple different factors that can affect a student-athlete, and a majority of websites linked to studies say that student-athletes are overall affected positively by sports without mentioning the outside sources a person encounters. The consequences of playing a sport can be lifelong in both the mental and physical sense. It can be difficult for these former student-athletes to transition after an injury. It’s difficult to avoid situations like those, it’s best to focus on how these sports help these individuals rather than how they harm them.

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CC BY-SA 4.0 The effect of sports on the mental health of student-athletes by Grace is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

1 Comment
  1. Mary 3 months ago

    Hi Grace,
    This is an interesting approach to take in how sports can affect you. I’ve usually only seen all the evidence that points to sports being good for your mental health, but being able to see the other side of the coin is good as well. For example if a certain sport is someone’s whole and is taken away from them, their can be severe side effects such as depression and PTSD as you’ve mentioned above. I like how you mentioned that some websites that state sports are good for your mental health “don’t take a lot of factors into consideration, only the facts that the person is a student and they play a sport.” It’s important to look at all these factors of anything before diving into it. I thought you might like this article from the atlantic that talks about teen athletes struggle with mental health. (https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2019/04/teen-athletes-mental-illness/586720/). I really enjoyed this article and hope to see more writing from you in the future.
    Mary

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