Mental Health and Wellbeing Research at the AFL

Youth Talent Development - AFL Mental Health and Wellbeing Study

The AFL have partnered with Deakin University to deliver a world first study on mental health and wellbeing of young footballers aged 16 years to 25 years.

The research, led through a partnership between Deakin University’s Centre for Social and Early Emotional Development and the AFL, will bridge a major gap in understanding how we can help support the wellbeing and healthy development of young people playing football. A series of publications are currently underway which will contribute to international and national understandings of how to support healthy development, both on and off the football field.

Mental Fitness Model for the AFL Talent Pathways: a model of wellbeing for young high performance Australian footballers

The scientific literature supports that elite athletes experience both universal and sport-related mental health risks. For adolescents athletes in high performance programs, there are additional challenges that characterise this life stage, which means that mental health prevention and promotion in this population group is needed. This study involved a literature review of all wellbeing science as it related to youth mental wellbeing, and the application of this evidence to inform the Mental Fitness Model for the AFL Talent Pathways. 

This model is proposed to hold unique promise to meet the mental wellbeing needs of young high-performance athletes, whilst promoting positive mental health that can track into adulthood. The final peer-reviewed publication was published in Frontiers in Psychology and can be accessed below. 

Neurodiversity in elite athletes: a systematic scoping review

Neurodiversity refers to the natural variation in human development and is a term that is often used to encapsulate neurodevelopmental differences such as autism and ADHD. To better understand the needs of neurodivergent athletes in the AFL, a systematic scoping review was conducted which sought to bring together the literature relating to autism and ADHD in elite athletes. Findings identified whilst ADHD, in particular, likely occurs more frequently among athletes compared to the general population, there is a gap in evidence to date in terms of understanding neurodiversity in elite sport. Understanding the unique needs of all athletes ensures we build inclusive environments in which all individuals can thrive. This work was published as a peer-reviewed publication in the British Journal of Medicine Open Sport and Exercise Medicine and can be accessed via the link here.

Psychological Safety for Mental Health in Elite Sport: A Theoretically Informed Model

The Role of AFL Club Doctors in supporting mental health of AFL Players

A research snapshot of the findings is Here. Read the full paper Here.

An Evidence-Informed Framework to Promote Mental Wellbeing in Elite Sport