Isolated athletes face mental health risks


Fear, stress and money worries: coronavirus lockdown is hard for anyone, but athletes are facing extra mental health risks as  they go from highly active lifestyles to  isolation and boredom, experts warn,  reports AFP.

While some housebound athletes have posted upbeat videos of themselves training or attempting internet challenges such as juggling toilet rolls, the stress caused by the extreme adjustment and uncertain future looks likely to take its toll.

Long-term effects on athletes after the SARS and swine flu outbreaks included anxiety, obsessive hand-washing and fear of getting too close to people, Carolyn Broderick, Tennis Australia's chief medical officer, told AFP.

But the impact of the current pandemic is unprecedented, with athletes sidelined worldwide after COVID-19 forced most sports into hibernation and put billions of people in lockdown.

Those affected range from well-paid superstars such as tennis's Serena Williams, who has suffered from depression in the past, to journeyman pros and Olympic hopefuls whose lives have been thrown into turmoil.

Williams, 38, who only needs  one more Grand Slam title to equal the all-time record of 24, admitted that social distancing because of coronavirus had left her feeling "a ton of stress".

"Every little thing makes me crazy. And by anxiety I mean I'm just on edge. Any time anyone sneezes around me or coughs I get crazy," she said on TikTok.

Even before the virus, a steady stream of people involved in sports -- often an insecure and high-stress profession -- have wrestled with depression, from Williams to Olympic swimming great Michael Phelps, MMA fighter Ronda Rousey, boxer Mike Tyson and All Blacks rugby player John Kirwan.