Mental Health Awareness Week: Dr Craig Ranson

Published 19 May 2020

GemmaHowellWeb

What does your role as the English Institute of Sport (EIS) Director of Athlete Health consist of?

The role is to oversee the physical and mental health strategy across the high-performance system. We have a dedicated team within the EIS who work very closely with doctors, physiotherapists and other practitioners involved in athletes physical and mental health. The dedicated team has a focus on athlete health surveillance activities, so using our medical records to find out which are the health problems that have the biggest burden on athlete availability. Particular focus for us is on the areas of respiratory health, female athlete health and topically, mental health.

How much significance is now put on an athlete’s all-round wellbeing?

It has probably evolved over the last ten years or so around the world. There’s probably been a step change this cycle especially for the British high-performance system in that we have a dedicated athlete health strategy and a dedicated team who work very closely with other professionals involved in athlete health. The EIS has had sports doctors and physiotherapists embedded in sports for the last 20 years but having a central team that works very closely with them to optimise athlete mental health is a step change in this cycle.

How big is the correlation between positive mental health and athlete performances?

Sport used to focus primarily on physical health, but mental health has emerged as a considerable topic through this cycle. Now we’re seeing there is a real correlation between physical and mental health and the two are entwined - in order to be available and have optimal preparation for performance then you need to be both physically and mentally healthy. We try not to make a distinction too much anymore.

What advice have you been giving to athletes during this period to support their mental health?

It’s very difficult to give one general overview as everyone is different and everyone has very different circumstances. Some of our athletes will be shielding because they’re particularly vulnerable while others will be getting on with a relatively normal training regime, so it varies from sport to sport and athlete to athlete.

But we’re well prepared and having the foresight to have a dedicated mental health team who work very closely with the psychologists and performance lifestyle advisors in particular has meant we’re very well set-up now to support an athletes social needs even in a time of change. No matter the circumstance.

The athletes are very good as well. People in the press have asked me how the athletes are coping with all this change, but athletes cope with change all the time. They travel around the world, they’re in un-familiar circumstances, they’re having to train out of hotel rooms so they’re very, very good at adapting. Some have needed more support than others but in general they’ve all coped well.

How proud are you of the support the EIS provide for an athlete's all round wellbeing?

I think the infrastructure we’ve put in place and the collaboration across the system has allowed us to provide world class support for those in the system. I wouldn’t want to be in any other system in the world I don’t think if I were an athlete at this stage, they’re very well supported and I think the high performance system in general has done a very good job to help care for athletes. We do have to be reactive to a certain extent as it’s an unfamiliar situation for everyone, but that’s underpinned by a very good team and very good people, structures and resources.

To find out more about the services UK Sport and the English Institute of Sport provide to help promote positive mental health across the world class system, please click here

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