Sports Psychiatry and the Super Bowl Champs

Feb 09, 2013

The team psychiatrist for Super Bowl Champs, the Baltimore Ravens, draws on his own professional career of working with athletes of all ages and levels and provides a comprehensive presentation of the literature in the emerging field of sports psychiatry.

Although NFL teams are known to protect their playbooks with security measures reminiscent of Fort Knox, the newly crowned Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens have allowed at least one important element of their success to go public. David McDuff, MD, team psychiatrist for the Ravens, recently wrote Sports Psychiatry: Strategies for Life Balance and Peak Performance. In his book, Dr McDuff draws not only on his own professional career of working with athletes of all ages and levels, but also a comprehensive presentation of the literature in the emerging field of sports psychiatry.

For those whose practice may include working with professional athletes, Dr McDuff elucidates the specific requirements this profession (eg, frequent travel, workdays that start early and end very late, constant judgment of performance by those inside and outside of the team). Using case examples, Dr McDuff illustrates these particular obstacles so that an effective treatment can be designed and executed. In addition, the clinician who works with elite athletes will learn the essential elements of working with governing bodies to be certain that treatment being prescribed will not trigger any sanctions for the athlete who is seeking psychiatric help.

The cases throughout the book are valuable for the general psychiatrist as well as one who specifically subspecializes in sports psychiatry. One example is the case of a minor-league pitcher with problem drinking, disordered sleep, and a diagnosis of ADHD. In this case, Dr McDuff takes into account the culture of the sports team where drinking together is common, the need for quality sleep despite the irregular workday, and how to report the prescriptions to the governing bodies so that stimulant treatment does not trigger any sanctions. Although, Dr McDuff’s patient works on a mound in front of thousands of fans, the fundamentals of his treatment could be adapted to any patient who presents with similar complaints and a similar need for discreet periods of high performance.

Although Dr McDuff primarily works with the NFL and MLB, not all his cases include star athletes. The cases that involve youth athletes and their families are particularly enlightening and will likely be directly applicable. With just short of 8 million adolescents participating in high school athletics, it is the rare psychiatrist who will not treat people who are participating in athletics themselves or the parents of children participating in organized sports. The author presents different models for child athletic involvement and stresses the importance parents can play to heighten the likelihood sports participation will be a positive experience for child development. Furthermore, he demonstrates how child and parent attitudes and behaviors can be damaging to a child in ways that extend beyond poor athletic performance.

If someone is looking for a text that is concise, relevant, and enjoyable to read, Sports Psychiatry would be a very good choice.

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