Putting mental health first: How Biles’ withdrawal could change sports


TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The situation with Simone Biles has thrust athletes’ mental health struggles into the spotlight.

After her withdrawal on Tuesday, sports professionals came out of the woodworks to support Biles and other athletes under pressure, saying the mind is just as important as the body during a competition.

Biles left the world in shock when she pulled out of the final due for her mental health. But this not a new thing in the sports world. Tennis champion Naomi Osaka made a similar move when she pulled out of the French Open.

Sports trainers say their decisions were easy to make.

“I believe it’s a very personal decision, but one that is made under the spotlight because of Simone’s past achievements and the magnitude of the Olympics,” said Dr. Nic Martinez from the University of South Florida.

Biles is receiving overwhelming support from fans and pro athletes around the world. When Osaka left the French Open, some were shocked, others critical, but it had everyone talking.

Dr. Martinez believes they could be the catalyst for change.

“I think it’s a positive. In a situation where society is ever-changing and individuals are always challenged with daily life stresses and in addition to athletes who have to perform at a high level, we don’t really know what’s going on in the individual’s head at all times, so it’s super important to consider those factors,” Dr. Martinez said.

Dr. Martinez works with athletes and teaches a course called mental performance and stress management at USF. He believes this could be the beginning of athlete’s taking charge of their mental well-being.

“I think considering, definitely at the collegiate level and at the professional level, you do see a lot of these designations for sports psychologists that they have the mental health counseling designation. I do believe that it’s becoming more prominent, and it’s being addressed in a lot of different areas in sports,” Dr. Martinez added.

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