NEW YORK: For 2021, the US Open's already comprehensive medical care system will evolve to include a number of new initiatives aimed at providing best-in-class mental health support to players.
The USTA's Mental Health Initiative will ensure that a holistic approach is taken with all aspects of player health, including mental health.
The medical services program for the 2021 tournament will include licensed mental health providers, giving players access to mental health services throughout the duration of the event. In addition, quiet rooms and other support services will be provided. The US Open will work closely and collaboratively with the WTA and ATP sport science and medicine staff on site in an effort to ensure players understand the enhanced medical services available, and how to access these health offerings as needed.
“The USTA and US Open are always looking for ways to work collaboratively with the other Grand Slam events, ATP, WTA and ITF to provide the greatest level of support for our competitors,” said Mike Dowse, CEO and executive director, USTA. “We recognize that ensuring the mental health of the players is an area that needed to be addressed, and we are taking formative steps to give athletes the necessary resources to compete at the highest level.”
The tournament's medical care system is anchored by a partnership with Mount Sinai Health System and the leadership of Dr Alexis Colvin, chief medical officer, US Open. Spearheading the Mental Health Initiative will be Dr Brian Hainline, first vice president, USTA; Dr Claudia Reardon, an internationally recognized expert in sports psychiatry; Stacey Allaster, chief executive, USTA, and US Open Tournament director; and Mardy Fish, captain of the US Davis Cup team.
“The issue of mental health awareness has been brought to the forefront over the course of the global pandemic, as many individuals, players included, have struggled with the stresses and emotions that have come as a result of COVID-19,” said Allaster. “Together with the multi-dimensional pressures within professional sport, this new reality highlighted the need to provide additional resources to support all aspects of athletes’ health, including their mental health and wellbeing. We look forward to seeing how the initiatives implemented at this year’s tournament, and in the coming months, make an impact on player wellbeing, and will continue to look for ways to improve and adapt as we move forward.”
“Our goal is to make mental health services as readily available to athletes as services for a sprained ankle — and with no stigma attached,” added Dr Hainline, who is on the ITF Sports Sciences and Medicine Commission in addition to his roles as NCAA chief medical officer and professor of neurology at the Indiana University and New York University schools of medicine. “We will provide an environment that fosters wellness while providing the necessary resources to readily allow mental health care seeking.”
“We are working to create an environment that supports overall mental well-being,” said Dr Reardon, a professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine's psychiatry department. “That means taking action on many levels, from dealing with acute emergencies to addressing the root causes of athletes’ mental health challenges. It is essential that mental health and well-being be seen as inseparable from overall health.”
The USTA believes that ensuring this wider array of mental health support services are available, together with efforts to reduce and hopefully eliminate any stigma associated with seeking them out, will contribute to the health of the athletes and also send an important message to all of society about the importance of supporting and de-stigmatizing mental health.
“The US Open set the standard for staging the largest international sporting event during the pandemic in 2020," said Dr Colvin. "We are proud to again be leading the way in 2021 by providing comprehensive medical care of all aspects of athlete health, including mental health.”