Exploring the mental health experiences of student-athletes who have sustained a concussion
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Background: Research on concussions and mental health/ illness among athletes has focused on the prevalence of mental health disorders in this population. There is currently limited amounts of research looking at the mental health experience of athletes who have sustained a sport-related concussion. Aim: The aim of this research was to conduct an exploratory study using the two-continua model of mental health as a guiding theoretical framework to answer the following research question: What is the mental health experience of student-athletes who have sustained a concussion? Methods: Semi-structured interviews using open-ended questions were conducted with eight student-athletes, and an inductive thematic analysis was used to analyze the transcripts. Results: Three themes emerged from the transcripts: a) it’s not something you have control over, b) to be or not to be: navigating the unwritten rules of being an athlete, and c) finding a way through and moving forward. These findings highlight the challenges and mental health states student-athletes faced as they progressed through their concussion experience. Implications: This research can be used to help physicians, sport psychologists, athletic therapists, coaches, and educators better understand the lived experience of student-athletes who have sustained a sport-related concussion.