Athletics come with mental health consequences

Starting in kindergarten Physical Education (P.E.) class, students learn that there are countless benefits from being physically active; however, the negatives are never mentioned.

The P.E. teachers weren’t wrong, being physically active does have benefits, such as, reducing the risk of heart problems, increasing energy levels, improving brain and other muscle functions, bettering sleep and warding off depression.

Statistics show teens are more depressed than ever before, with 20 percent of teens struggling with depression and only 30 percent being treated.

This is partially why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend teenagers have at least an hour of physical activity a day and encourages students to join athletic teams.

While exercising the body releases hormones (endorphins, dopamine and serotonin) that help enhance one’s mood and make one feel good. Sometimes athletes even experience a heightened experience, a drug-like high, a euphoria, while exercising.

For some, this high is addictive, and athletes might strive to reach it daily. There’s nothing wrong with consistently achieving what is known as a “runners high.” However, withdrawal from physical activity isn’t typically the best for one’s mental health.
The typical high school sports team practices six times a week for two hours a day, but once the season ends the level of these hormones released drastically drops, which means the same level of hormones that an athlete might have been reaching daily, giving him or her an athletic high is suddenly gone.

This leads some athletes to experience Post-Athletic Activity Depression (PAAD), and according to National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), along with PAAD, lack of maintaining hormonal levels from physical activity, can unveil anxiety, eating disorders and substance abuse.

A study conducted by the National Institute of Health found athletes are three times more likely to develop an eating disorder than the average person.

According to the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) 21.4 percent of student athletes have depression, and according to the National Institute of Health, 14 percent of athletes struggle with either bulimia or anorexia.

To prevent depression and eating disorders post season, Ohio University recommends that all athletes should find ways to stay active and eat healthy during the off season.


Evelyn Trampe – Video Editor

This will be Evelyn Trampe’s second year on ECHO staff, but she made several contributions while taking journalism class her sophomore year. She is also a member of Quill and Scroll.

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Categories: Features, Sports

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