NATA Releases Consensus Statement Guidelines for Student-Athlete Psychological Concerns at the Collegiate Level

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Source: National Athletic Trainers' Association Indianapolis, September 25, 2013 - At a national press conference this morning, leading health care professionals released an inter-association task force consensus statement titled, "Recommendations for Developing a Plan to Recognize and Refer Student Athletes with Psychological Concerns at the Collegiate Level." The event was convened by the National Athletic Trainers' Association and held at NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis. This is believed to be the first time a cross section of interdisciplinary professions has collaborated on this type of document. The executive summary of the guidelines is published in the September/October issue of the Journal of Athletic Training, NATA's scientific publication. A copy statement is available at nata.org. Approximately one in every four to five youths in America meets the criteria for a mental health disorder and experiences severe impairment across a lifetime. In 2012, the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reported that 45.9 million American adults aged 18 years or older experienced a mental illness in 2010. The rate of mental illness was more than twice as high for those in the 18-25 year range than in those aged 50 years and older. "Given the NCAA student athlete participation rates of more than 450,000 in 2011-2012, the probability of encountering one or more student athletes with psychological concerns within an athletic department is a certainty," said Task Force Chair Timothy Neal, MS, ATC, assistant director for sports medicine and adjunct professor at Syracuse University. "These guidelines were created to provide school administrators, physicians, athletic trainers, mental health experts, coaches, athletes and others with a clear roadmap to address the psychological challenges college athletes may face today." The task force was spearheaded by NATA and supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics; American Medical Society for Sports Medicine; American Psychological Association; Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors; Association of Applied Sports Psychology; International Critical Incident Stress Foundation; International Society of Sports Psychiatry; National Collegiate Athletic Association and the University Risk Management and Insurance Association. "It is well known that regular physical exercise can have positive benefits on an individual's mental health and lead to a healthier, happier life," added Neal. "The mental health of a college athlete or those who are physically active can be challenged by any number of factors including stressful life situations or injury. These issues are of paramount concern to health care professionals, organizations, administrators, coaches, athletes, parents and others." The athletic trainer and team physician are in positions to observe and interact with student athletes on a daily basis. Some athletes suffering from a psychological concern may not inform their athletic trainer, team physician or coach to their problem, but may "act out" nonverbally as a way of alerting others that something is bothering them. Psychological concerns may include depression; anxiety; eating disorders; abuse of drugs, alcohol or other substances; hyperactivity, violence or even suicidal thoughts.

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