In my first blog entry I discussed the issue of social media affecting the decision of athletes to play with an injury and the resulting effects on their mental health. This part of my blog I will investigate if there are currently any strategies in place to help the athletes deal with the pressures to compete when injured that are placed upon them from these outside stimuli, and will try to make a determination of their effectiveness.
The current perception that social media is having a negative influence on professional athletes performances has resulted in articles that attempt to determine whether any correlation exists. One such article “Does the media impact on athletic performance?” discusses how use of media can cause either a positive or negative out comes on an athletes` performance (Ott 2006). This article cites the case of David Swerdlick’s editorial “Ricky Williams”. Ricky Williams was a professional football player who left the game as result of not being able to handle the pressure being placed upon him by the media. Ricky was a camera shy superstar of the game who lost millions of dollars when he walked out on his team after the scrutiny that he was receiving became too much for him to handle (Swerdlick 2005). This example is compared to other cases where the athlete was able to use the media to their advantage. The conclusion was made that mental toughness of the athlete was the key factor in determining what affects the stress has on the athlete, and how they respond to these stresses (Ott 2006).
The current excepted coping strategy for helping someone overcome external pressure placed on them to preform, is to increase the attributes that develop mental toughness. This term is so broad however it can be used to cover all aspects of phycology in the athletic field. The current frame work looks at factors such as, self-belief (confidence), focus, ability to handle pressure and the ability to control their feelings (Jones et al. 2007). These qualities are usually learned through the persons experiences in life (Bull et al. 2005), thus coaches generally find that mental toughness can`t be taught (Jones et al. 2002). As a result, when an athlete tries to return from an injury, skills are instead used to re-instil confidence in the athletes` abilities. These skills include meditation, relaxation imagery, breathing exercises and imagery of the task (Cohn 2013) (Hamson 2006).
The problem with the research to determine the best way for athletes to deal with the external pressures placed upon them is that there seems to be an assumption that the athlete is healthy. The coping mechanisms put in place to help the stresses placed on an athlete, for example meditation (Hamson 2006), can provide potential strategies that can be implemented in the hopes to reduce the impact of future confidence issues involving injury. The other articles that injury was the focus also targeted the stress placed on athletes returning from an injury. Again these athletes although were injured are now healthy. Although these articles do focus on the more of the mental state of the athlete, the focus is on the stress relation to re-injury and not any impact that the media is placing upon them.
There appears to be a severe lack of literature written on this subject with almost no studies done on the impact social media is having on these athletes playing with injury. The only time it is addressed is by the athletes themselves, normally during press conferences. Because of this in my next blog I will investigate the most effective way in which this problem can be properly studied and try to come up with a solution to this problem.