May 20, 2013
By Alex Cate UTSports.com
Fans see them sprinting onto the football field and tending to a fallen player. They're seen roaming sidelines, dugouts and benches - stretching student-athletes and diagnosing injuries.
On the surface, that's what sports medicine staffs are identified with but much like some of the issues they have to tackle; it can go much deeper than that.
The University of Tennessee sports medicine department with the Tennessee Athletic Trainers' Society hosted a conference on Friday at Neyland Stadium that focused on the mental healthcare of student-athletes.
The purpose of the event was to bring out some of the hidden issues facing sports medicine staffs when dealing with the mental health of student-athletes as well as show professionals the resources that are available to them.
The conference featured presentations by UT's director of sports medicine Jason McVeigh, head team physician Dr. Chris Klenck, and Team Enhance/Team Excel coordinator Kristen Martin and focused on some of the unseen of issues that can have an effect on student-athletes.
"Athletics carries a level of mental health so you need to support your student-athletes," said McVeigh. "We're trying to raise some awareness that there are real issues out there that need to be addressed."
It is that kind of awareness that made Team Enhance and Team Excel a necessity.
Martin, a licensed clinical social worker, heads the teams. Both initiatives are dedicated to the mental, physical, and emotional health of Tennessee's student-athletes. Team Enhance is geared towards women's athletics while Team Excel structured towards men's athletics. They begin communicating with student-athletes when they first arrive in Knoxville.
"We usually educate all of our freshmen about the services we have available," said Martin. "A lot of times I will go to teams individually to talk about the resources we have and the benefits of the services that we have. Our coaches will do the same thing.
"We just try to educate everyone involved so that everyone is aware including the student athletes so that if something does come up they know they have someone to talk to."
With Friday's conference, that education was directed at athletic trainers and sports medicine personnel that have close relationships with student-athletes.
Sometimes not as noticeable as a broken bone or ligament tear, mental health diagnosis takes close observation and constant management.
"It takes a lot of getting to know your student-athletes on a regular basis," said McVeigh. "In our profession we're interacting with them a lot. I think the more we're around them, I think the more we're going to be able pick up on behavior changes. Getting to know your student-athletes is probably one of the biggest things that can make you identify when an issue is subtle or a big issue."