Anxiety and Pro Athletes: Let’s Find a Way to Talk About it

I was disheartened but not entirely surprised to see some of the insensitive and clearly misguided responses from some Blue Jays baseball fans to the news that Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna was experiencing anxiety, which was affecting his ability to play. I was rather surprised that Osuna was the one who in fact revealed this to the news media.  How brave.  He may have done his fellow pro-athletes a favour but based on some of the media reports, you would not know it.  Most of the articles I read were short and non-analytical, almost unsure of what to do with the information outside of wanting to move the talk to “OK so when is it over and when is he back”?  I think they really missed an opportunity here to look at an issue that affects many pro-athletes, and one that should specifically be looked at more closely for athletes dealing with language and acculturation issues, as outlined in this article, especially when they are as young as Osuna.   Ultimately, researchers say despite the increase in talented young athletes from other countries joining pro-ball teams in North America — a life that may look incredible, but  means little contact with family, different customs and language and a life on the road — there needs to be more research to help pro-athletes from a cross-cultural perspective.  While Osuna may say his anxiety is not related to his performance, anxiety, depression and other mental health challenges, do affect the game and a player’s ability to participate as was the case for the Blue Jays.  As a therapist, I say it is is therefore in everyone’s interest to talk about anxiety and depression in sport seriously and with compassion so others feel they can talk about it as openly as Osuna did.