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How is sport approaching mental health?

Swimmer Swimming in pool
Thursday, 03 August 2023 By Simon Ramsden

Earlier this year triple Olympic gold medallist, Adam Peaty, withdrew from the British swimming championships, on mental health grounds connected with depression and alcohol problems saying1:

“Everyone wants to sit in your seat until they have to sit in your seat … very few people understand what winning and success does to an individual’s mental health. They don’t understand the pressures these individuals put on themselves to win over and over again.”

He subsequently remarked2:

“I’ve been on a self-destructive spiral, which I don’t mind saying because I’m human. By saying it, I can start to find the answers. I got to a point in my career where I didn’t feel like myself – I didn’t feel happy swimming, I didn’t feel happy racing, my biggest love in the sport. I’ve had my hand hovering over a self-destruct button because if I don’t get the result that I want, I self-destruct.”

Peaty previously suffered a setback in 2022 after breaking his foot in a training accident but was able to recover physically in time to compete at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham last summer.

Peaty hopes his decision not to participate in the British swimming championships will help him prepare for next year’s Paris Olympics, where he plans to defend the 100m breaststroke and 4x100m mixed medley gold medals he won at Tokyo 2020.

While athletes and players are no strangers to injury how should sporting bodies and teams respond to (and even anticipate) mental health conditions and symptoms, such as anxiety and depression? Especially, but not exclusively, where these are directly related to sports performance, training and careers? What initiatives are being taken on (and off) the training ground and the competitive arena?

This article looks at the legal requirements for sports organisations and some of the initiatives begun in the UK and across the sporting world.

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Written by

Simon Ramsden

Simon Ramsden

Simon is a legal director at TLT LLP and specialises in public and regulatory law.

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