How the NCAA Prioritizes Mental Health –

The NCAA continued its commitment to advancing the mental health of its more than 520,000 student-athletes in the 2023-24 school year. Check out some ways the NCAA has made progress in this area, including new resources, initiatives and research.

Good mental health practices

The second edition of the NCAA Mental Health Best Practices was approved at the 2024 NCAA Convention in January and will go into effect on August 1. The paper includes emerging information on the intersection of mental health and sports betting, social media, corruption in sports, the contagion of suicide, and name, image and likeness. The document also details specific considerations for student-athletes of color, LGBTQ student-athletes, international student-athletes and student-athletes with disabilities.

“The updated Mental Health Best Practices reflect the highest standards of excellence and evidence-based practice and comprehensive and updated guidance on mental health support in collegiate athletics,” Medical Director of the NCAA, Brian Hainline, who announced his retirement in March. , he said after a February meeting of the Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sport. “The NCAA recognizes the importance of promoting and protecting the mental well-being of student-athletes, who face unique challenges and pressures in their pursuit of excellence.”

The four best practices in the documenthave been updated to recognize the importance of creating healthy environments as a first step in promoting mental health, as well as to provide members with greater flexibility in implementation. The best practices are:

  1. The creation of healthy environments that promote mental health and promote well-being.
  2. Procedures, including mental health screening tools, to identify student-athletes with mental health symptoms and disorders.
  3. Action plans that describe referral pathways for student-athletes to qualified providers.
  4. Licensing of providers who supervise and manage the mental health care of student athletes.

Additionally, as part of Division I’s holistic student-athlete model, the division’s schools will be required to certify that they provide services and support consistent with best practices, with the first accreditation deadline in November 2025 According to the NCAA constitution adopted in January 2022, each member school, regardless of division, must facilitate an environment that reinforces physical and mental health within athletics by ensuring access to adequate resources and open engagement. in terms of physical and mental health.

To support NCAA members in implementing mental health best practices, the NCAA Sports Science Institute recently hosted a series of webinars featuring member-based examples of ways to support and promote the mental health of student athletes.

Sports betting

Protecting student-athletes from the downsides of sports betting, which range from addiction to harassment, quickly became a priority for NCAA President Charlie Baker after he began his role in March of 2023. Since then, the NCAA’s advocacy and efforts in this space have had an impact..

The national office continues to work aggressively in states that have or are considering legalizing sports betting to incorporate anti-harassment measures. This includes asking for bans on player-specific bets. As a result, several states have taken affirmative action to protect student-athletes from sports betting harassment. Four states have implemented restrictions on close betting, and four other states have introduced bills protecting student-athletes from harassment.

The NCAA has expanded its educational efforts with EPIC Global Solutions, designing a specific curriculum that addresses the handling of abusive content. More than 50,000 student-athletes have been educated through the program, the largest of its kind worldwide. The NCAA has also released a sports betting e-learning module designed to educate current and future student-athletes about the harms of gambling and the risks sports betting poses. the integrity of sport.

The NCAA is also working with Signify Group to pilot an initiative targeting social media bullying for the 2023-24 championship season. The initiative focuses on select championships with a high risk of harassment and abuse directed at championship participants, particularly student-athletes. This initiative aims to further promote the mental health and well-being of the college sports community through data collection and analysis.

In March, the NCAA launched a campaign called “Draw the Line,” prioritizing educating student-athletes about the effects of sports betting. Draw the Line is aimed at college students and will run through social media channels. It will include a membership toolkit for member schools and conferences to access resources that extend the campaign to their campuses.

“Sports betting is everywhere, especially on college campuses, so critical student-athletes have the real story of how it can affect them and their ability to play,” Baker said. “We know some bettors are harassing student-athletes and officials, which is why we’re advocating for policy changes at the state level and putting in place monitoring tools around championships to refer serious threats to law enforcement. The NCAA is doing more than ever to protect the integrity of the game and arm student-athletes with the truth about sports betting.”


The NCAA has continued to receive direct feedback from student-athletes about their experiences, particularly regarding mental health issues.

In December, the NCAA released the results of a nationally representative survey of more than 23,000 student-athletes. The findings, from the NCAA’s Student-Athlete Health and Well-Being Study, indicated that student-athletes are reporting fewer mental health issues than during the heyday. COVID-19 pandemic, although improvements are smaller in some demographic groups.

Similar to findings from online studies conducted in 2020 and 2021, self-reported mental health struggles were more common among student-athletes of color, those who identified on the queer spectrum, and those who identified identified as subgroups of the transgender or non-binary population that typically show higher rates of mental distress. .

“Gaining an accurate understanding of what student-athletes experience directly from these aspects is vitally important to helping member schools better serve the students on their campuses,” said Tom Paskus, NCAA managing director of research. “The NCAA and our research partners, including NCAA athletics faculty representatives, devote substantial time and energy to conducting student-athlete well-being surveys because they allow us to examine important issues such as trends in mental health over time. Having tens of thousands of respondents allows us to really dig into the concerns we see in certain sports or within specific demographics.”

In addition to sharing the results of the health and wellness study, the NCAA’s Gambling and Social Environments Study is currently in the field, and the NCAA research team expects to share preliminary results in early this fall The study represents the first comprehensive national examination of how NCAA student-athletes are affected by the proliferation of legal sports betting options in the US following the repeal of the Professional Sports Protection Act and 1992 amateurs by the Supreme Court in 2018. Additionally, the survey examines how student-athletes interact with campus and community groups and deal with various issues that arise in their social environment. The study will expand the NCAA’s understanding of the sports betting landscape and its direct impact on student-athletes, including whether rates of problem gambling behavior in this population have changed as Sports betting has become legal in many states, if student athletes are experiencing fans. abuse related to sports betting and how social media use is affecting the mental well-being of student-athletes.

Insurance mental health coverage after eligibility

In August 2023, the NCAA Board of Governors approved the creation of the NCAA Post-Eligibility Insurance Program for all student-athletes, which will begin on August 1. For up to two years (104 weeks) after the student-athletes separated from the school or voluntarily withdrew. of athletics, the program will cover excess medical expenses for athletic-related injuries sustained on or after August 1 while participating in an NCAA qualifying intercollegiate sport. The coverage will provide benefits in excess of any other valid and collectable insurance. The policy will have an excess limit of $90,000 per injury, with no deductible.

The program includes coverage for mental health services resulting from an eligible, documented athletic injury sustained while participating in an NCAA qualifying intercollegiate sport. Of the $90,000 available, there will be a sublimit of up to $25,000 for mental health services related to eligible documented sports injuries.

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