In 2007, a comparative study was done to assess the risk factors associated with depression for female athletes. Although sports and exercise can often help to mitigate mental illness, such as depression, there are many teens who are passionate about the sports they play and who simultaneously experience either a psychological disorder or an addiction.

The comparative study included surveying 257 college athletes, of which 167 were males and 90 were females. Various symptoms of mental illnesses, such as depression and anxiety were measured by having the competitive athletes complete three different psychological assessments. The results of the study indicated that 21% of participants reported that they experienced symptoms of depression. Those athletes who were female, those who were in their freshman class, and those who self-reported pain were associated with having increased odds of experiencing symptoms of depression. Female athletes had 1.32 greater odds of experiencing symptoms of depression than their male counterparts. Also, those students who reported symptoms of depression also had higher scores of related to anxiety.

Athletes who are prone to certain mental illness or who are vulnerable to addictions, such as to steroids or other substances that improve performance, might call upon the expertise of a sports psychologist. This type of mental health professional explores the relationship between psychology and sports, athletic performance, exercise, and physical activity. There can be a various types of focus when working with a sports psychologist.  For instance, therapy might center on using imagery and attention to sharpen an athlete’s performance or it can center on how to improve the overall well being of that athlete. The athletes in the study above might utilize the skills of a sports psychologist to help prevent depression, if in fact they are prone to it, or to improve performance without allowing the symptoms of mental illness to interfere. Read more about teen mental health treatment options here.

For instance, another study indicated that those teen athletes who got little sleep were at a higher risk for injury during their sports playing. The study employed 160 teen athletes, of which half were female and half were male, from a Harvard-Westlake school in California. Those teen athletes who got at least 8 hours of sleep had a 68% lower risk of experiencing an injury during performance. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that teens get at least 9 hours of sleep each night. Working with a sports psychologist, a teen athlete can create a schedule that meets their needs for sleep, performance, and mental health.

Just like other psychologist, a sports psychologist would come up with a treatment plan that is specific to the psychological and physical needs of their client. Whether a teen athlete were diagnosed with depression, anxiety, or another mental illness, a sports psychologist would work to treat that illness while also keeping in mind a teen’s desire to perform well physically in the sport of their choice.


Yang, J. et. al. (2007). “Prevalence of and Risk Factors Associated With Symptoms of Depression in Competitive Collegiate Student Athletes” Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine: November 2007 – Volume 17 – Issue 6 – pp 481-487 doi: 10.1097/JSM.0b013e31815aed6b

November 1, 2012. “Sleepy Teen Athletes May have Higher Injury Risk.” Huffington Post. Retrieved on March 28, 2014 from:

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