1. In this systematic review and meta-analysis, mindfulness-based programs (MBP) helped to improve mental health-related outcomes in elite athletes.
2. Furthermore, large, but non-significant effect sizes were found for reduced depression in elite athletes.
Evidence Rating Level: 2 (Good)
Elite athletes may experience mental health symptoms that exceed those of non-athletes due to the unique stressors placed upon them. MBPs have previously been associated with improvements in athletic performance, but have not been evaluated in the context of mental health. As a result, the objective of the present systematic review and meta-analysis was to determine the effect MBPs have on mental health of elite athletes.
Of 2386 screened records, 12 randomized controlled trials (n=614 athletes; 75% men) were included in the final analysis. Dates ranged from 2011-2020. Studies were included if they were randomized controlled trials which assessed the effectiveness of MBP on mental health outcomes in elite athletes of any age. Studies were excluded if the MBP lasted <4 weeks or if non-elite athletes were included in the population. Study quality was evaluated using the Joanna Briggs Institute’s checklist for randomized controlled trials. Certainty of the evidence was measured using the Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) framework. Several statistical methods were used including random effects models, exploratory subgroup analyses and meta-regression models.
Results demonstrated that mindfulness-based programs (MBP) reduced symptoms of anxiety, stress, and increased psychological well-being in elite athletes. Furthermore, two of three studies reported large significant reductions in depression; however, one reported small, non-significant results. Despite these findings, the study was limited by the significant proportion of male athletes (75%) and the minimal inclusion of para-athletes (3%). However, the present study demonstrated the potential of MBPs to reduce both general symptoms of anxiety and competition-specific anxiety which may aid in supporting overall performance.
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