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by Professor Alan
Currie and Professor Steve
Published: October 2018
It is now
acknowledged that athletes can experience difficulties with their
mental health and that any psychiatric condition can present in the
All good doctors have diagnostic skills.
Alongside this, they seek to understand the affected individual and
the context in which an illness has emerged. For the sports
psychiatrist, this means acquiring specialised knowledge about
the athlete and the sports environment in which they perform.
Existing interventions in the biological, psychological and social
realms can all be adapted for use in the world of sport, and
incorporating this specialised knowledge into a formulation is the
basis for engagement and developing a treatment plan.
Athletes face obstacles when accessing
psychiatric care. Psychiatrists need not only the clinical
knowledge and skills to treat athletes but also a willingness
to reach out and the ability to engage.
There are many sources of pressure in the
sports environment. The psychiatrist who takes time to understand
these is in a position to help an athlete (and their team) to build
the mental skills to respond effectively to these pressures.
It is still relatively uncommon for
psychiatrists to work in elite sport. The barriers to greater
involvement need to be understood if they are to be overcome.
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