Tell us more about yourself and the author team.
I am a French former professional footballer being nowadays Extraordinary Professor at the Section Sports Medicine of the University of Pretoria but based at the Amsterdam University Medical Centers (Orthopaedic Surgery department). I am also Chief Medical Officer at FIFPRO (Football Players Worldwide), the sole international union for professional footballers. I am Chair of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Mental Health Working Group and co-Director of the IOC Programs on Mental Health in Elite Sport. As senior author of this study, I was blessed to rely on the following team of experts:
Kaizeen Confectioner (India) is a young mental health professional who has worked with FIFPRO as an intern, on a project to build a Mental Health toolkit for professional football players. She completed her Masters from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, in Mental health, and has worked with several NGO’s in India as a mental health professional and social worker.
Professor Alan Currie (UK) is a Consultant Psychiatrist with Cumbria Northumberland Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust. He is also visiting professor at the University of Sunderland in the Department of Sport and Exercise Sciences. He is the founder and a former chair of the Royal College of Psychiatrists Sports and Exercise Psychiatry Special Interest Group (SEPSIG). In 2019 he joined the International Olympic Committee mental health working group and was also appointed to the Mental Health Expert Panel of the English Institute of Sport (EIS). He became chair of the Scientific Committee of the International Society for Sports Psychiatry (ISSP) in 2020.
Dr Nicole Gabana (USA) is a licensed psychologist and certified mental performance consultant being nowadays Director of Sport Psychology at the University of Massachusetts. Dr Gabana is a member of the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP) and the American Psychological Association (APA).
Nienke van Gerven (The Netherlands) is Player Development Manager at FIFPRO, the global representative organisation for professional football players and a member of the World Player Development Steering Committee.
Professor Gino Kerkhoffs (The Netherlands) is Chair of the Orthopaedic Surgery Department at the Amsterdam University Medical Centers and co-Chair of the Amsterdam Collaboration for Health and Safety in Sports (one of the IOC Research Centers of Excellence).
What is the story behind your study?
Following some tragic events in professional football and according to the substantial prevalence of mental health symptoms among active and retired professional footballers, FIFPRO (Football Players Worldwide) developed an awareness video aiming to disseminate essential information related to mental health symptoms in professional football. Before using the mental health awareness video in practice, it was essential to explore its impact on the attitudes of professional footballers towards help-seeking behaviours related to mental health symptoms.
In your own words, what did you find?
We found that the view of the mental health awareness video led to a significant increase in the attitude of help-seeking behaviours related to mental health symptoms among professional footballers. We also found that after the video, players felt more confident in helping someone in need. Last but not least: professional footballers were positive towards the relevance and added value of the mental health awareness video.
What was the main challenge you faced in your study?
With the objective to use the mental health awareness video as soon as possible in practice, the window for the recruitment of professional footballers was tight. That means that the recruitment of a convenient sample of players was even more challenging than usual.
If there is one take-home message from your study, what would that be?
Mental health literacy leads to better attitudes of professional footballers towards help-seeking behaviours related to mental health symptoms, which should be favourable to the work of their medical team.