By Morgan Spencer ’22
Pop! A knee clinches together as the sound of crying fills the stadium. A player hits the ground. Teammates gather around, hoping it is nothing too bad. The trainer is working on the player as she lays helpless on the ground. Then the words a player never wants to hear come out of the trainer’s mouth:
“I’m sorry, I think you tore your ACL.”
The shock runs over the girl’s face. All she can think about is the season being over, surgery, a 9-month recovery, and her future in college soccer (or lack thereof).
I have gone through two ACL repairs, and I have been beside players who have done the same. The fear of getting injured or re-injured can take over someone’s mind. After injury, an athlete’s behavior may change short-term or even long-term. They could be fighting a battle with fear every time they step on the field.
It is not only the constant threat of injury that creates mental health issues. Athletes also have their performance level and schoolwork to worry about.
14.11% of male and 14.49% of female student athletes experience mental health issues. It is hard enough to do high school but the pressure to perform athletically, succeed academically, and remain uninjured piles on worries to the list.
Players have too much pressure on them to perform well, either from their coach or their parents. ¼ of student athletes feel this pressure. The pressure to be perfect. The pressure to not make mistakes. The pressure to be the best. This pressure could end up with the player hating the game they once loved.
The pressure to do well in school can also be mentally draining. It is hard to balance practices and studies, and just one bad grade could land you on the bench. Kids who struggle with school but love the sport they play end up feeling more stressed by the end of the day.
All of this can lead to intense mental struggles. When I tore my ACL the first time and got cleared to play, there was not a day on the field that I did not think about re-tearing it. Before every single game I would pray, but the fear of tearing my ACL for a second time consumed me. I almost made it another season without re-tearing, but, sadly, it happened again. Now I am in the process of recovering, and when I am cleared, I have to think about if I want to play again. I love the sport, but is all this stress worth it?
If you are an athlete who struggles with mental health, please reach out to a trusted adult and tell them what you are dealing with. The constant fight for mental health is more important than your sport.