The dual pandemic: COVID-19, systemic racism, and college student-athletic mental health


Introduction: Taking part in sport is often associated with positive mental health (White et al., 2017). However, athletes are not shielded from having compromised mental health. A growing body of research is emphasizing risks related to sport participation, especially for elite-level athletes (e.g., Henrikson et al., 2020). Public health emergencies, such as COVID-19, are believed to exacerbate already stressful social conditions, particularly for Black, Indigenous, or people of colour (BIPOC) who have been historically marginalized (Hancheva, 2021). Therefore, the dual pandemic of 2020 – COVID-19 and systemic racism – may have accumulative deleterious effects on athlete mental health. Methods: This presentation explains how the dual pandemic contributes to the psychological distress of 222 college student-athletes. The impacts of COVID-19 and systemic racism on daily life were individually assessed using descriptive statistics. The direct effects of COVID-19 and systemic racism were each tested using linear regression. Finally, the interaction effect of the dual pandemic on psychological distress was examined using moderation analysis. Results: Results suggest that COVD-19 had a moderate impact on daily life of college student-athletes. The direct effect of COVID-19 on psychological distress was significant but did not differ based on ethnic groups. Additionally, nearly all BIPOC student-athletes reported experiencing systemic racism; yet level of systemic racism did not predict psychological distress. Conclusion: Findings provide insight for a variety of stakeholders involved in collegiate athletics. The discussion will emphasize the importance of prioritizing mental health and the need to assess the role life skills in mitigating poor mental health outcomes.