Summer Reading

What are you reading this summer?

Summer can be a time when the pace of work and life slow just a bit, affording us a chance to pick up that book we’ve had sitting on our nightstand or follow through on someone’s suggestion for a ‘must read.’

I have a vacation coming up, during which time I plan to catch up a bit on my pleasure reading. The titles in that reading list are not particularly relevant to our world of sports medicine.  However, I did find the time this past week to read a book I have been ‘meaning to’ for a while, and it’s one I would certainly recommend to all my colleagues in the world of sports medicine.

It is:  “What Made Maddy Run”

I found myself engaging with this book on so many levels — as a human being (mental health issues can affect us all), as a former Ivy League athlete, as a consumer and producer of social media, as a father of teenage athletes, and yes, as a sports medicine clinician.  It was a powerful read, a ‘page turner’ — one that has left me thinking long after I turned the last page, the hallmark of a good book, I think.

Madison (Maddy) Holleran was a high level track runner attending Penn, one of her dream schools, as a freshman.  She came from a supporting, loving family, and was endowed with so many gifts. She was the person who ‘had it all.’ Her social media favorite — Instagram — provided the visuals and narrative confirming that.

But.

But, Maddy struggled with anxiety and depression, and she took her life early in the second semester of her first year at university, leaving so many people mourning the loss and full of questions.

The author Kate Fagan stepped into this story and has written such an insightful book on the nexus of youth sports, mental health, and social media.  Ms. Fagan herself is a former NCAA athlete who poignantly discusses her own struggles with mental health in this book.  Indeed, the story is first and foremost’s Maddy’s; but we come to know the struggles of two athletes as we read this book: the author’s and the subject’s. Read more of this post

The Mental Health Podcast and CASEMCON2019

I hope readers of this blog, and listeners of the podcast, have been following #CASEMCON2019 on their social media feeds this week. The Canadian Academy of Sport and Exercise Medicine (CASEM) has been conducting its annual meeting in Vancouver these past several days, and is scheduled to wrap up today, May 18.  I have learned so much from following this #, as well as following the feeds of CJSM Twitter friends including Drs. Jane Thornton  Margo Mountjoy and Laura Cruz.

The topic of mental health in sport has figured prominently in the CASEM proceedings:  for instance, Clint Malarchuk, a retired NHL player, is scheduled to talk today about the stigma of mental health in sport.

And so one of our more recent publications and our most recent podcast could not be timelier (published in our May 2019 journal): The Canadian Centre for Mental Health and Sport (CCMHS) Position Statement: Principles of Mental Health in Competitive and High-Performance Sport

Krista Van Slingerland, of CCMHS and the University of Ottawa

The CCMHS is a relatively new organization and, along with a similar group in Sweden, represents one of the first such initiatives on the planet.  The co-founder of CCMHS, Ms. Krista Van Slingerland of the University of Ottawa, is the lead author of the position statement. She graciously met me on Skype (she, in Ottawa, and I in Columbus) to conduct a podcast exploring the issue of mental health in sport and the work CCMHS is doing to bring further attention to this issue and begin treating individual athletes for the problems they are facing.

CJSM is committed to providing a platform for this important issue, one which has been relatively neglected for too long in our world of sport and exercise medicine.  In my training — and I would suspect in yours, too — the focus was primarily on musculoskeletal medicine,  Medical issues such as managing diabetes or exercise-induced asthma, screening for cardiac disease, etc. would demand our attention at times.  The issue of concussion and its sequelae have of course become central to our athletes’ lives and our practice.  But identifying and helping our athletes cope with anxiety, depression, suicidality — I received little to no training in sports medicine about this, and have heretofore relied on my training in family medicine to help.

The new position statement as well as the CJSM CME Module we have created will help clinicians, including myself, learn more about the importance of mental health in the athletes we serve, and will help us be better able to identify and address the issues uncovered.  High profile and tragic stories like that of the life and death by suicide of Olympic cyclist Kelly Catlin underscore the vital importance of improving our care.

Besides the timeliness of #CASEMCON2019 wrapping up today in Vancouver with Clint Malarchuk’s talk, there is a bit of additional serendipity to the publication date for the CCMHS statement and this podcast, as well, for May is #MentalHealthAwarenessMonth!

And so…..your action items for this weekend

  1. Follow #CASEMCON2019 on your social media feeds
  2. Listen to the podcast, which can be found on our journal web page and on our iTunes feed
  3. Read the position statement — one of the Editor’s picks for this month
  4. Check out the CME module CJSM has produced on the topic of mental health in sport
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