Book Jacket "The Burden of Sports"

The Burden of Sports

How and Why Athletes Struggle With Mental Health

Athletes that compete at a high level—whether in professional, college, or Olympic sports—face numerous mental health challenges as they strive for perfection and ultimately victory. And while mental health awareness for athletes is better than it once was, efforts to hide the existence of these mental disorders and challenges remain well-ingrained.

In The Burden of Sports, John Weston Parry, JD ’74, examines the mental health and emotional well-being of elite American athletes generally, as well as in relation to spectator sports propaganda, the legal system, politics, and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. This book covers mental health conditions that any elite athlete may encounter, from depression and anxiety to substance abuse and concussion-caused brain damage, to the special challenges of female, queer, transgender, and intersex athletes. Parry also highlights the personal stories of famous American athletes who struggled publicly with their mental health, including Simone Biles, Naomi Osaka, Michael Sam, and Tiger Woods.

From individual and team pressures to win and attain sport perfection to the prejudice and ignorance of fans, management, and corporate sponsors about mental health, addressing the mental health of athletes and challenging the public perception of such struggles is long overdue. This is a timely and necessary book for readers who want to see sports change for the better in support of America’s athletes.

John Weston Parry is a lawyer, writer, and former substantive legal editor with many years of experience covering issues related to sports, mental health law and disability rights. He has been the host and primary content provider for the website and blog, since 2016. He also is the author of The Athlete’s Dilemma: Sacrificing Health for Wealth and Fame (2017) and Mental Disability, Violence, Future Dangerousness: Myths Behind the Presumption of Guilt (2013). In addition, he is a past recipient of the Manfred Guttmacher Award from the American Psychiatric Association and the American Academy of Psychiatry and Law. He lives in Silver Spring, Maryland.

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