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Competing against COVID-19: have we forgotten about student-athletes’ mental health?
  1. Nicholas Grubic1,2,
  2. Shagun Jain3,
  3. Valentina Mihajlovic4,
  4. Jane S Thornton5,6,
  5. Amer M Johri2
  1. 1 Department of Public Health Sciences, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada
  2. 2 Department of Medicine, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada
  3. 3 School of Kinesiology & Health Studies, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada
  4. 4 Department of Psychology, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada
  5. 5 Western Centre for Public Health & Family Medicine, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, Western University, London, Ontario, Canada
  6. 6 Fowler Kennedy Sport Medicine Clinic, Western University, London, Ontario, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Nicholas Grubic, Department of Public Health Sciences, Queen's University, Kingston, ON K7L 3N6, Canada; nicholas.grubic{at}

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Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, athletes have expressed significant grief and frustration, attributed to alterations in routine, limited or modified training and the postponement of sporting events across the globe.1 2 The additional strain from the removal of team support networks, which are often crucial components for stress management,1 can result in significant mental and physical health consequences, including low mood, sleep disruption, worsening diet and deconditioning.2 There is a current lack of attention on the unique mental health needs of student-athletes (ie, athletes who participate in secondary or postsecondary school sport programmes during their academic studies) during the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to a limited response from sporting organisations and academic institutions in addressing athlete-specific concerns.3 Accordingly, the purpose of this editorial is to suggest directions for future research and provide recommendations to ensure the mental health needs of student-athletes are met during this period of extraordinary disruption and uncertainty.

Student versus student-athlete mental health during COVID-19

The college student population already exhibits high levels of psychological distress in non-pandemic settings,4 which has worsened as a result of the pandemic.5–7 A Chinese study of 7143 college students identified the presence of mild to severe anxiety in a quarter (24.9%) of their sample, noting that the severity of anxiety symptoms were positively correlated to academic delays (r=0.315, p<0.001), economic effects (r=0.327, p<0.001) and impacts on daily life (r=0.316, p<0.001).5 …

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  • Twitter @nickgrubic, @janesthornton

  • Contributors All authors contributed to the conception of this editorial. NG and SJ wrote the first draft of the manuscript. VM, JST and AMJ provided key edits and revisions to the manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.