WIAA, University of Wisconsin study shows depression is up among Wisconsin high school athletes

Published: Jun. 30, 2020 at 4:25 PM CDT
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STEVENS POINT, Wis. (WSAW) -The WIAA’s research with the University of Wisconsin discovered that 33 percent of high school athletes are showing symptoms of depression. That’s 3.5 times more than what the historical data shows.

“It could be school closures,” University of Wisconsin senior scientist Tim McGuine said. “It could be cancelations. It could be as somebody said the economic uncertainty we’re facing right now.”

Dr. Tim McGuine said that sports being canceled isn’t necessarily the only reason depression and anxiety have increased.

“Teasing that out would be difficult,” McGuine said. “This is a snapshot of those athletes as we know and what we could control for.”

With the depression and anxiety numbers being up, the WIAA has to weigh the damages of depression versus the dangers of sports returning.

“There are questions that we are not able to answer in this minute,” WIAA executive director Dave Anderson said. “As I said, this is changing, rapidly changing.”

The decision will end up coming down to the location of the school.

“Different districts, different counties may have different risks going on,” said McGuine. “I know what I think. I think we can accommodate some sports, going forward, getting schools in.”

Part of the urgency to rev up sports and school stems from a study by the American Academy of Pediatrics that says children are less likely to get infected and spread COVID-19.

“There were studies back in April looking at worldwide and showed that school closures did not have a meaningful impact on infections or death rates,” McGuine said.

Regardless of the outcome, high school sports will look different come August.

“It won’t look like it has in years past because there will need to be hygiene disinfecting, some social distance, potentially practicing in pods ideally, coaches wearing masks when they can’t social distance,” Sports Medicine Specialist Dr. Kevin Walter said.

Dr. McGuine added that his department is planning to do a follow-up study once activities start again. The WIAA says it’s hoping to release some guidelines in July to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 for fall sports.

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