USTA Press Release, August 24, 2021
The USTA, today announced the implementation of a number of initiatives aimed at providing the highest level of mental health support to professional tennis players.
The USTA’s Mental Health Initiative will be an extension of the US Open’s already comprehensive medical care system, anchored by the US Open’s partnership with Mount Sinai Health System and the leadership of Dr. Alexis Colvin, Chief Medical Officer, US Open. The goal of the initiative is to ensure that a comprehensive and holistic approach will be taken with all aspects of player health, including mental health.
Spearheading the USTA’s efforts will be:
- Brian Hainline, MD, the USTA’s First Vice President and chair, ITF Sports Sciences & Medicine Commission, as well as NCAA Chief Medical Officer, and professor of neurology at Indiana University and New York University Schools of Medicine
- Claudia Reardon, MD, professor in the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Department of Psychiatry, and specialist in sports psychiatry
- Stacey Allaster, Chief Executive, Professional Tennis, USTA, and US Open Tournament Director
- Mardy Fish, current captain of the U.S. Davis Cup team, former top-ranked U.S. player and Olympic silver medalist in tennis
“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 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,” said Dr. Hainline. “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. “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 comprehensive medical services program for the 2021 US Open will include licensed mental health providers, giving athletes 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 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.
Additional comments on this initiative:
“As a player and individual that dealt with issues of anxiety on and off the court, I applaud the USTA for providing licensed mental health care providers and services for today’s athletes and for taking proactive steps to draw awareness to an issue that has been overlooked in the past. Mental health struggles are a reality for many individuals, athletes included, and I am comforted to see that moving forward services addressing these issues will be provided in the overall medical plan at the US Open.”
Dr. Alexis Colvin, Chief Medical Officer, US Open
“The US Open set the standard for staging the largest international sporting event during the pandemic in 2020. 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.”
Becky Ahlgren Bedics, WTA VP Mental Health & Wellness
“The WTA is pleased to collaborate with the US Open to continue the conversation around the importance of mental health. Our athletes are extremely savvy regarding taking care of their physical health, and any opportunity to broaden the discussion to caring for their mental health serves to benefit their health, overall. The renewed interest and energy around discussing the mind-body performance connection, generated by athletes, is a welcome and important enhancement to the discussion. We appreciate that the US Open continues to evolve its services offered to athletes and we are confident that these new initiatives will complement our WTA Mental Health & Wellness services.”
Andrea Gaudenzi, ATP Chairman
“The mental health pressures faced by players week in week out on Tour are significant. This is a matter of paramount importance and increasing focus for the Tour, as we continue to expand support available to players. The wide-ranging initiatives in place at this year’s US Open are another valuable step forward, as is driving more open discussion around this space in years ahead.”
About Dr. Brian Hainline
Dr. Hainline is First Vice President of the USTA. Dr. Hainline was a founding member of the USTA’s Sport Science Committee and has been a member of the ITF Sport Science and Medicine Commission since 1993, serving as chair since 2003. Dr. Hainline is Senior Vice President of the NCAA Sport Science Institute and Chief Medical Officer – the first person to hold this title – at the NCAA. He is a Fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine and of the American Academy of Neurology, and is a Clinical Professor of Neurology at Indiana University School of Medicine and at New York University Schools of Medicine.
About Dr. Claudia Reardon
Dr. Reardon is an internationally recognized expert on sport psychiatry, including diagnosis and treatment of mental illness in athletes. She is a board member of the International Society for Sport Psychiatry and served as co-chair of the first-ever International Olympic Committee Consensus Summit on Mental Health in Elite Athletes. She is a Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.