Int J Sports Med 2017; 38(11): 864-870
DOI: 10.1055/s-0043-114010
Clinical Sciences
© Georg Thieme Verlag KG Stuttgart · New York

Symptoms Of Common Mental Disorders In Professional Rugby: An International Observational Descriptive Study

Vincent Gouttebarge
1  Academic Center for Evidence based Sports medicine (ACES), Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Phil Hopley
2  Division of Surgery, UCL, London, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Gino Kerkhoffs
3  Amsterdam Collaboration for Health & Safety in Sports (ACHSS), Academic Medical Center / VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Evert Verhagen
4  EMGO Institute, VU University Medical Centre, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Wayne Viljoen
5  South African Rugby Union (SARU), Cape Town, South Africa
Paul Wylleman
6  Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels, Belgium
Mike I. Lambert
7  Division of Exercise Science and Sports Medicine, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
› Author Affiliations
Further Information

Publication History

accepted after revision 06 May 2017

Publication Date:
11 September 2017 (online)


The aim of the study was to determine the prevalence of symptoms of common mental disorders among professional rugby players across countries. A cross-sectional analysis of the baseline questionnaires from an ongoing prospective cohort study was conducted. Nine national players’ associations and three rugby unions distributed questionnaires based on validated scales for assessing symptoms of common mental disorders. Among the whole study sample (N=990; overall response rate of 28%), prevalence (4-week) of symptoms of common mental disorders ranged from 15% for adverse alcohol use to 30% for anxiety/depression. These findings support the prevalence rates of symptoms of common mental disorders found in previous studies among professional (i. e., elite) athletes across other sports, and suggestions can be made that the prevalence of symptoms of anxiety/depression seems slightly higher in professional rugby than in other general/occupational populations. Awareness of the prevalence of symptoms of common mental disorders should be improved in international rugby, and an interdisciplinary approach including psychological attention should be fostered in the medical care of professional rugby players. Adequate supportive measures to enhance awareness and psychological resilience would lead not only to improved health and quality of life among rugby players but arguably to enhanced performance in rugby.