Study underway to determine mental health impact of no sports on youth athletes


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Sports cancellations and postponements have a great financial impact, but there’s a very real mental health component to it as well.

A world without sports is an adjustment at every level, but there’s currently a study underway to determine the effects on high school athletes specifically.

Kids who engage in youth sports are hurting without their outlet for exercise, friendship and belonging – all positive mental health aspects of team sports.

PhD and Senior Scientist at the University of Wisconsin, Dr. Tim McGuine is conducting a national study to find out how high school athletes are truly feeling without their sport.

“We know that those kids that participate in high school sports are less likely to be on opioids or alcohol. We know as adults they are more engaged, more readily able to handle adversity. All that we know from the past decades and decades of research that says this is happening,” said McGuine.

“My thought is, if we take that away suddenly, what happens to these kids? What’s the psychological aspect of it?”

McGuine said after releasing the study online Monday morning, over 50 athletes from the state of Tennessee have participated in the study. The goal is to accurately determine the effects the shutdown of youth sports due to the pandemic has had on the health and well-being of high school students.

He’s seen the impact of high school sports in his own life with his kids and colleagues.

“That high school ability to be with teammates and to learn adversity and to help each other out and sacrifice was huge and I’m convinced where they (my children) are today is because of a lot of what happened in their high school athletic community. When I talk, I talk to surgeons and professionals and the first question I ask is how many people here were high school athletes? Everybody’s hand goes up.”

To participate in the study, follow this link. McGuine said on average, it takes less than 7 minutes to complete the survey.

The study is for all high school athletes, but there’s an even greater psychological effect on those whose careers ended abruptly.

Seniors who never had a senior night.

Megan Moir, a licensed counselor who works primarily with athletes has advice for young athletes struggling with this reality.

“They don’t have their last games, they aren’t having their senior night, there’s no closure. So I think my biggest suggestion would be to coaches, but also athletes, is what can you do to honor a lifetime (of sports)? Especially if you’re in high school or college, you’ve spent most of your life playing sports, and for it to come to an abrupt end you need closure.”

If you’re struggling with how to find closure and want to talk to Megan, head to her website.

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