Professional sport and initial mental health public disclosure narratives


The disclosure of absences from professional sporting activities to the media is a routine and generally unproblematic part of a sporting career. However, when the reason for the absence relates to mental health concerns, players can encounter difficulties in trying to define, describe and conceptualise their own issues while attempting to maintain privacy as they undergo assessment and treatment. Drawing on ethnomethodology and conversation analysis principles and methods, this paper explores first/initial public mental health disclosure narratives produced by players and sporting organisations across several professional sports via media interviews, press statements, and social media posts. The analysis focuses on (in)voluntary accounts produced by teams or players themselves during their careers and examines the different communication strategies they employ to categorise and explain their predicament. The analysis reveals how some players provide partial or proxy public disclosure announcements (due to a desire to mask issues or delayed help-seeking and assessment), whereas others prefer fuller disclosure of the problems experienced, including diagnoses and on-going treatment and therapy regimes. The paper outlines the consequences of these disclosure strategies and considers the implications they can have for a player’s wellbeing in these stressful circumstances.


The file attached to this record is the author's final peer reviewed version. The Publisher's final version can be found by following the DOI link.


Professional Sport, Mental Health Disclosure, Stigma, Sports Media, Ethnomethodology


Elsey, C., Winter, P., Litchfield, S., Ogweno, S. and Southwood, J. (2020) Professional sport and initial mental health public disclosure narratives. Communication & Sport.


Research Institute

Institute for Allied Health Sciences Research