Report: NBA Mulls Psychological Effects of Return | Athletic Business

Report: NBA Mulls Psychological Effects of Return

As professional sports leagues set dates for a return to action, some are voicing concerns over the psychological effects of returning to team activities during a pandemic.

ESPN spoke with general managers and athletic trainers who are concerned about players and staff that might be described as “germophobes.”

"I'm one of them," one veteran front-office executive for a team in postseason contention told ESPN.

Said one Eastern Conference general manager: "I'm not a germophobe, and I'm afraid."

Returning to the field and court could put extra pressure on athletes and sports professionals who already work in stressful environments on a daily basis.

"Some players will have an easier time breaking through that, and other players will have a real challenge with that," one Eastern Conference athletic training official said.

Former NBA all-star Metta World Peace, who has suffered from mental health issues, publicly thanked the NBA and the Los Angeles Lakers for addressing his challenges in the past.

"People are affected when humans are affected, because we're only people," World Peace said in a phone interview with ESPN. "... If one of your significant others passed away, you might mourn for a year or whatever. Now, you got 50,000 to 60,000 people passing away all over the globe -- that's going to mess with anybody. You just never know who it's going to affect. On a certain level [guys will think], 'What if I get it? What if I don't?' You just never know who it's gonna affect."

More than 250,000 have died during the coronavirus pandemic, including more than 75,000 in the United States.

People ESPN spoke with drew loose comparisons to the anxiety that circulated the NBA when Earvin “Magic” Johnson was diagnosed with HIV.

"They can't tell you that you're not at risk, and you can't tell me there's one guy in the NBA who hasn't thought about it," Utah Jazz forward Karl Malone said then, while others went so far as to say they didn’t want to play against Johnson.

No direct comparisons were made between the coronavirus and HIV.

"I don't think there's a corollary to Magic Johnson and what he dealt with," one general manager for a team in the playoff hunt said, "but, because this one is so contagious, there's still the psychology around it."

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