Self-reported Mental Health Measures among Incoming Collegiate Student-Athletes who had SARS-COVID-19
Anderson MN, Gallo CA, Passalugo SW, Nimeh JM, Buckley TA. J Athl Train. 2023 [published online ahead of print, 2023 May 26]10.4085/1062-6050-0554.22.
Athletes with a history of COVID-19 infection may report slightly worse depression and anxiety scores than peers without a history of COVID-19.
Over 75% of people have cognitive difficulties following COVID-19 infection, and approximately one in three experience persistent neuropsychological effects such as depression and anxiety. It remains unclear if athletes with a history of COVID-19 infection experience more depression or anxiety than athletes without a history of COVID-19.
The authors compared patient-reported anxiety and depression between incoming collegiate athletes with or without a history of COVID-19.
Participants were freshmen or transfer student-athletes in a more extensive concussion study that completed a question about their history of COVID-19 and all mental health measures. The participants reported on their mental health using the Satisfaction with Life Scale, Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, and State-trait Anxiety Inventory.
The authors examined 79 athletes with a history of COVID-19 and 99 without a history of COVID-19. Overall, individuals with a history of COVID-19 had worse depression and anxiety scores, especially among women. However, these differences were small – often less than a one-point difference. When the authors examined how many student-athletes met clinical cut points for depression or anxiety, almost everyone in each group (>94%) did not meet the clinical scores for depression or anxiety, regardless of their history of COVID-19.
Patients with a history of COVID-19 may have worse mental health outcomes than those without a history of COVID-19. However, since many of the patients scored within the normal ranges, the clinical applicability of the difference could be questionable. It would have been interesting to know if the time since having COVID-19 or its severity influenced mental health outcomes among student-athletes. This type of analysis will require more student-athletes.
The authors suggested that clinicians should be aware that student-athletes with a history of COVID-19 could have a greater risk of mental health concerns should another event (e.g., concussion, joint injury) occur.
Questions for Discussion
Why do you think there was such a negligible effect on athletes’ mental health after COVID-19 infection? Do you think we need to be concerned about mental health effects in athletes after a COVID-19 infection?
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Written by Mitchell Barnhart
Reviewed by Jeffrey Driban