Sporting minds: American football, recovering from injuries and mental health

american football team

Read Andy's story about how sport has been an outlet for dealing with bad mental health

  • 25 March 2022
  • 3 min read
Our sporting minds campaign is running throughout the entire month of March 2022. This campaign aims to raise awareness of mental health issues through sharing stories from members of our sports clubs. These stories are honest, open and extremely helpful, showing readers that they are not alone in their struggles and giving examples of healthy coping mechanisms and outlets for dealing with complex feelings. We hope that this campaign inspires conversations between you, your friends, family and teammates. We have also supplied a number of resources below if you are affected by this story.

Andy is a member of the Team UOP American football Club as well as a serving member of the Armed Forces and this is his story. 

Hey, I'm Andy, a 28 year old Mechanical & Manufacturing student. I am currently a serving member of the Armed Forces and due to the nature of my job, I have always been into fitness.

Early on in my career, I suffered a severe injury to my shoulder playing rugby for the military. I battled hard to recover and this made me quite cautious of playing sports. I'd spent so much time away from work and being able to do everything that a soldier should. I would say this was a starting point for a history of bad mental health, as sports were always my outlet for those rubbish days when you needed that team and physical exertion on the pitch.

Wind the clock forward a few years - I have arrived at University a lot older but with the same mental health I always had. Most people will say time heals most things, but for me, it was always the sport, team spirit and ethos that you gained from team sports that helped.

Starting University at 27 was hard, but I quickly was given something to combat the unknown dread of academic work - American Football. I stand by my point above that sport can solve many issues and incorporate the feeling of belonging, additionally, the ability to stand on the pitch with some unlikely individuals I will consider friends for life. All of this combined makes facing the challenges of both life and University so much easier.

Undertaking sport at the University of Portsmouth took me far beyond filling a gap that sport had previously filled. It gave me a safety net in that I had the ability to turn to my fellow Destroyers teammates to talk over problems, enjoy social events and even just watch some Football. This all allowed me to relax and settle into my course. Having these resources and human interactions were key for dealing with stresses, as well as giving me a physical outlet to release any issues that built up.

Having started University during a pandemic, sport gave me a support network that I could reach out to and confide in those closest when I wasn't okay, even when all seemed fine from the outside. I would like to share, from my observations of sports clubs at UoP, I believe any of the teams would have been exactly the same.

As a 28-year-old who still battles with their mental health, my advice would be to seek out your 'sport'. Whether your outlet is kicking a ball or something more expressive like dancing, take the dive and see how it can help you. University is a great place to learn new experiences and meet some fantastic people. Without my involvement in American Football, I feel I'd have had a completely different University experience if I even chose to stay at all.

Andy after american football game

Are you struggling with any topics raised in this story?

We have provided links to helpful resources for support below. 

If you need some support with your own mental health at this time, the student wellbeing service have a number of resources to help.