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Mental health spotlight in top competitive athletics

Olympians and other apex athletes (professional and collegiate level) are regarded as "superhuman," with unfathomable willpower, speed, strength, abilities, and traits that ordinary mortals can only dream of. Even the word Olympian, which derives from Greek mythology. Mt. Olympus was the home of the Gods, and the label Olympian conveys some of those more than human traits to these elite athletes. This makes it difficult to accept that these folks may have the same health problems and afflictions as the general population.

When it comes to the top tier training or rehabbing from injuries, science and research have remained current for athletes; however, what is lacking is researching and studying apex athletes' mental health and psychological well-being.

Elite athletes are seen as hard-working and healthy persons who exhibit good mental characteristics such as "focused," "resilience," "confident," "resilient," and "unflappable." The long-held and now-outdated assumption was that only mentally and emotionally strong athletes could achieve and compete at the top level. This resulted in a lack of focus and monitoring on mental health disorders (MHD) and mental health symptoms in the realm of top athletics. The assumption that great athletes are free of mental health issues is being openly challenged by players at the pinnacle of their sports. Research also supports the notion that elite athletes, who are under enormous pressure to perform at the highest level, are sensitive to and battle mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, addictions, and drug abuse.

How can sports participation and exercise turn bad?

Regular exercise and sports participation have long been recognized to aid with mental health symptoms and problems because physical activity produces the mood booster serotonin.

If involvement in sports is beneficial in combating mental health illnesses, why does there seem to be a worrisome link between apex athletes and mental health concerns? What occurs for these athletes that prevent their sport from being released and instead exacerbate their mental health issues? An apex athlete is the result of years of preparation. The athlete's identity is formed by the sport, and it becomes difficult for the athlete to find enjoyment in what they once loved. They often have a pressure they carry to always perform at the top levels. For them, there is no room for failure or disappointment at that level of competition. Simone Biles remarked in Tokyo that she felt like she was carrying "the weight of the world on her shoulders."

There is now a heightened emphasis on research of MH