Health and the Elite Athlete

There has been a long-lasting notion that athletes are healthy, strong, and invulnerable, at all levels, both physically and mentally. Traditionally, sport psychology has mainly focused on performance enhancement, primarily for the healthy athlete. In elite sports, priority is given to various strategies and efforts to keep the athlete healthy and free of injuries. The need to evaluate, examine, and when needed, treat athletes’ physical conditions is well established and rarely questioned. It’s also well established that engaging in elite sport comes with a commitment to devote most of your life, often from an early age to deliberate and time-consuming training. There is still the notion that who ever can train better will achieve higher goals. A question that still needs to be asked is, what role does mental health and other psychological challenges play in elite sport? The idea of high pressure to achieve goals in sport in relation to setbacks and stress is getting increased attention from the sport medicine community. The relation between elite sports and mental health problems have not been extensively researched. What has been suggested from the studies that have been published is that mental health problems seams to be at least as common in elite athletes as in the non-elite-athlete population. In Sweden, it has been reported that approximately 30% of elite athletes report symptoms of mental health problems. Further, elite athletes have been found to report symptoms of eating disorders more often that the non-athlete-population, however, they are less likely to seek treatment.

Do you have problems with anxiety, depression, or sleep? Do you feel anxious about performance, social contexts or in general? Do you have the experience of intrusive thoughts or feelings of having to perform certain rituals or behaviors in a certain way? Do you have troubles concerning food, body shape or weight? Dr. Klara Edlund has extensive experience in working with elite athletes, ranging from club level to Olympians, on problems related to mental health and performance related issues. She also offers support and coaching related to career transitions when the athlete is transferring from an elite career in sport to other occupational and life goals. This transition often involves difficult decision making, sometimes due to health problems preventing the athlete to continue in his or her career as an athlete, that may lead to the feeling of lack of belonging, feelings of emptiness and depression.