Peace On and Off the Field

High level athleticism, injuries, and the constant spotlight leave professional athletes at risk for a whole host of potential mental health issues, but we’re only just beginning to see it discussed on a scale that matches pro sports exposure. With every new conversation about CTE or an athlete behaving badly, we get a bit more insight into the stress factors and mental state of athletes playing at the professional level today. How can we respond? What can we do to prevent the consequences of leaving these risks unanswered? One of Dr. Dawns core missions is bringing awareness to these questions and working together with athletes and organizations to find real answers.


Athletes are human. All the physical training in the world can’t prepare a person for the kind of mental pressure that comes with a professional athlete’s lifestyle. Million dollar contracts and a kind of stardom may be nice, but imagine losing a game and having thousands of people spend the week criticizing your bad day at work. Add in concerns of career ending injuries, the fact that most pro athletes rarely have careers that last beyond their mid 30’s, and the long term physical effects such rigorous sports have on the body. It’s easy to see how pro athletes might experience incredible levels of stress without a clear and obvious outlet.

In spite of the clear and obvious risks to mental health, there seems to be a critical lack of official channels to address these issues. Partially at fault is the hypercompetitive nature of sports: keep your head in the game, tough it out. The social stigma of seeking help for less physical maladies runs deep. But it’s also rare to find institutional assistance within pro sports leagues. Of all the teams, only a single NFL team employs a full time, in-house therapist, and beyond that there’s no official recourse for players seeking that kind of assistance. Part of Dr. Dawn’s goal is to propose new programs and promote official channels designed specifically to address a need that’s always existed for professional athletes facing the struggles of stress and mental taxation.

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