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Unveiling the Unspoken: Investigating the Impact of Mental Stress on Athletes’ Competitive Abilities from a Legal Lens

Written by Subham Sourav

Introduction :

Athletes in the high-stakes world of professional sports struggle with mental stress in addition to the physical difficulties that are frequently unsaid. An athlete's health may suffer from the strain of expectations, fierce competition, and the unwavering pursuit of perfection. The legal ramifications of mental health in sports have gained attention recently, especially in the wake of situations like the one that involved tennis sensation Naomi Osaka.

This article explores the relationship between contractual commitments, mental health, and athletic performance. We examine the fine line that exists between an athlete's contractual obligations and their mental health. We seek to shed light on the unexplored area where sports law meets mental-health awareness by looking at current contracts, court rulings, and the effects of well-known instances.

Role of AME(Athletic Mental Energy) :

Athletic Mental Energy (AME), which includes both cognitive and emotional aspects, is an essential but frequently overlooked aspect of athletic success. It is essential for helping athletes succeed in every aspect of their athletic pursuits. First of all, in the context of AME, cognitive endurance enables consistent concentration, quick decision-making, and flexible strategy development even in the face of exhaustion during competitive demands. Moreover, AME develops emotional toughness, enabling athletes to claw their way out of losses, manage stress well, and maintain enthusiasm in the face of difficulty.

Furthermore, AME functions as a distraction-mitigation mechanism that enables athletes to sustain unshakable focus in the face of external influences, improving performance consistency. Finally, AME helps athletes maximize their efforts without running the risk of burnout by facilitating a careful balance between effort and self-care.


Gender Disparities in Athletic Mental Energy (AME) and Well-being :

Male and female athletes have comparable mental energies for sports, but they deal with various issues that impact their mental health. For instance, even mentally strong women may experience stress due to their struggles with how they are expected to behave and look. Moreover, women may find it more difficult to make friends in the sports industry, whereas men typically receive greater support from their fellow players. Talking about their mental health might make both men and women feel uncomfortable, but for different reasons. Men may worry that it makes them appear weak, and women may worry that expressing their feelings would make them look bad.


In addition, there are stereotypes about how men and women should act in sports. For example, men are expected to be rough and aggressive, while women should be assertive without coming across as overly hostile. It's critical to recognize these variations and establish a welcoming environment to enable all athletes to compete at their highest level.


Naomi Osaka’s Impact on Mental Health Discourse :

There have been significant discussions about the relationship between sports, media responsibilities, and mental health as a result of Naomi Osaka's brave choice to put her mental health ahead of her physical goals. Being a well-known celebrity worldwide, she has been instrumental in reducing the stigma of mental health in the sports industry by being transparent about her battles with depression and anxiety. Osaka has shown advocacy and vulnerability by being upfront about her struggles, which has made it easier for others to get help for comparable problems.

The controversy surrounding Osaka's decision to skip the French Open press conferences following her match highlighted the possible negative effects of media commitments on athletes' mental health. Osaka maintained her position in the face of a $15,000 punishment, which sparked conversations about how to strike a balance between one's personal well-being and contractual obligations. This conflict emphasizes how important it is for sports organizations to review their rules and give their athletes' mental health top priority.

Osaka's case highlights important legal issues pertaining to handicap rights and equalities laws. People who have depression and social anxiety, such as Osaka, can be eligible for protection under these rules.

Athletes with mental health disorders must get appropriate accommodations, as mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which also applies to sports organizations. A closer look at athlete contracts and the requirement for clear clauses addressing mental health issues are brought about by Osaka's withdrawal from competitions. Existing clauses may be interpreted by courts taking into account the welfare of the athlete, which may lead to debates about enforceability and violation of contract.

In the end, Osaka's story emphasizes how important it is for sports organizations to give their athletes' mental health first priority. Contractual duties are significant, but organizations also have a responsibility of care to their athletes. In light of Osaka's choice, sports organizations should consider how to better support the mental health of their athletes so that they can succeed on and off the field.

Legal Implications for Athletes :

To maintain justice and equity, athlete contracts—which are essential to participation in professional sports—should expressly include mental health as a real problem. Due to stigma and ignorance, female athletes have historically been disproportionately affected by mental health difficulties. Contracts can provide equal protection to all athletes by including gender-neutral wording and clauses that allow them to access services and support for their mental health without facing discrimination. Moreover, it is imperative to enable female athletes to speak up for their own welfare, which calls for their presence in sports associations and decision-making committees. 

Gender-specific issues including emotional labor, body image demands, and cultural expectations are all fully handled thanks to this portrayal. Athletes should also be free to take time off for mental health without fear of consequences, regardless of their gender. Athletes can prioritize their health without Jeopardizing their jobs when there is contractual clarity regarding mental health leave, which promotes a supportive and compassionate culture within the sports business.



It is evident from Naomi Osaka's courageous choice to put her mental health first that athletes are more than simply competitors—they are human beings with emotions and problems of their own. Sports leagues, the media, and fans must show empathy for them in order to better support them. While education and awareness efforts can help lessen stigma and encourage open talks about mental health, athlete contracts should contain provisions for confidential communication and mental health support.

It's critical to fund wellness initiatives and mental health resources inside athletic departments, putting players' health and performance first. In the end, let's build a society in which athletes can openly talk about their mental health and seek support without fear of negative consequences, enjoying both their on-field successes and their personal wins over adversity. Therefore, by promoting players' health, we elevate the spirit of the game since a stronger champion is nurtured by a sound mind.

*The Author is a legal Scholar from India

(The Image used here is for representative purposes only)


  1.  Gregory, S. (2021, June 2). How Naomi Osaka Is Destigmatizing Mental Health in Sports.

  2. FirstSportz. (2022, December 7). I Felt Ashamed: 4-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka discusses the perils of mental health issues amongst athletes



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