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Time for mental healthcare guidelines for recreational sports: a call to action
  1. Stewart Anthony Vella1,
  2. Christian Swann2
  1. 1 Global Alliance for Mental Health and Sport, School of Psychology, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia
  2. 2 School of Health and Human Sciences, Southern Cross University, Coffs Harbour, New South Wales, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Stewart Anthony Vella, School of Psychology, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, NSW 2522, Australia; stvella{at}

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The mental health of professional athletes has become an important and visible global issue requiring strong and immediate action. Major organisations and governing bodies in sport psychology and sport science have published 10 position stands and statements on mental health in sport since 2016 (see table 1). These position stands and statements explicitly address, or emphasise, elite athletes (as defined by Swann et al).1 None of the position stands, consensus statements, or guidelines directly address athletes that could be considered subelite participants–for example, standards below talent development programmes or university-level participation.1 These existing position stands exclude organised recreational sports where the vast majority of individuals participate.2 3 We call on sporting organisations and relevant professional bodies to urgently enact policy in regard to mental healthcare in recreational sport—which encompasses all sports participation outside of those who are investing or specialising in one or a few sports with the intended outcome of elite performance.4

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Table 1

Existing statements on mental health in sport

At least 40% of children and adolescents in a majority of countries worldwide, and approximately 20% of all adults globally, participate in organised recreational sports.2 3 Fewer than …

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  • Twitter @cswannpsych

  • Contributors SAV and CS drafted the manuscript and approved the final version.

  • 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 SAV and CS are engaged as consultants to Movember on projects related to mental health care in recreational sports.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

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