Role of club doctors in the mental health management of Australian rules football players: a Delphi study

Br J Sports Med. 2022 Mar;56(6):320-326. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2021-104388. Epub 2021 Oct 18.

Abstract

Professional team athletes experience a range of mental health problems, both sports and non-sports related. However, there is limited information available for those charged with responsibility for managing these mental health conditions, particularly within the context of professional sporting clubs. This paper reports on consensus findings from a study of club doctors, who are primary care providers for professional team athletes within a specific code, the Australian Football League (AFL). Drawing on findings from a systematic literature search, a two-round Delphi procedure was used to develop a consensus on best practice for managing mental health conditions for club doctors as primary care providers for professional team athletes. Participants in this study were current and former club doctors employed in professional AFL clubs across Australia, with 28 doctors participating across two survey rounds. Overall, 77 statements were presented, with 50 endorsed as essential or important by ≥ 80% of the participants across the two rounds. Primary themes across nine domains include: (1) Prevention and Mental Health Promotion Activities; (2) Screening; (3) Engaging External Specialists; (4) Duty of Care; (5) Treatment: Assessment, Treatment and Case Coordination; (6) Communication; (7) Confidentiality; (8) Sleep Management and (9) Substance Use Management. This study is the first to offer club doctors working in professional team settings consensus guidelines for the management of mental health conditions, and the opportunity for greater clarification and consistency in role delivery.

Keywords: Australian football; consensus statement; mental; psychology; sports and exercise medicine.

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Delphi Technique
  • Football*
  • Humans
  • Mental Health
  • Soccer*