Working to end the stigma: Athletes and mental health

By Kate Constable
Medill Reports

As sports fans, we often put athletes on pedestals, dehumanizing them in a sense. We think of them as strong, focused and mentally tough, which they are. But this mindset is also part of the reason that mental health issues are too often ignored in sports.

On this episode of Medill Newsmakers, we focus on the role of mental health in sports and how athletes are working to end the stigma surrounding it.

Photo at top: Will Heininger speaking at the NCAA headquarters (Will Heininger/Michigan Medicine)


College athletes tackle mental health

By Max Goodman
Medill Reports

Take a moment and think about the amount of responsibilities that are on any college varsity athlete’s plate…

These student athletes have a full slate of practices, games, classes, assignments and meetings on a daily basis. Not to mention seeking out sleep, a social life, relationships, family matters and time to just relax.

On this episode of Medill Newsmakers we take a deep look at how these busy, high pressure and often overwhelming schedules impact the mental health of these young adults.

Photo at top: Kiley Jones, pitcher on the Loyola Ramblers softball team, smiles while examining the diamond. (Kiley Jones/@kileyjones00 on Instagram)

Darting Ahead: Windy City Darters hopes to help grow the game in the USA

By Tim Hackett
Medill Newsmakers

The game of darts is changing. It’s grown into a worldwide spectator sport attracting thousands of fans, and the popularity of the sport is surging in Europe and in other parts of the world. But that surge has yet to really take hold here in the United States, where professional darts is an afterthought and amateur darts is uncommon.

But there are efforts to grow this sport across the country, and some of those efforts have roots right here in Chicago. In this episode of Medill Newsmakers, we clear up some confusion about the great game of darts, and introduce you to some players who are trying to bring this game into the forefront.

Game on.

Photo at top: Mark Gillespie lines up a throw in a Windy City Darters Open League match at The Garage on a Monday night in May.

Soldier Field 10 Mile race kicks off running season from 50 yard line

By Nicole Croteau
Medill Reports

Kicking off the start of running season, RAM Racing held its Soldier Field 10 Mile race where runners start and finish at the 50 yard line.

The annual race on Memorial Day weekend is open to all runners at all levels. Starting on the famous field, the course then guides runners by the lakefront, through the city and back.

Each runner had a unique story and motivation that inspired them to join the race.

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Never undermine the ‘Sir’

By Louis Ricard
Medill Reports

Sports fans and athletes have a few things in common. They’re both pulling for their team to win. They both tend to think they’re better than their opponent. And they both have a love-hate relationship with referees.

Those wearing the stripes have haunted fans and athletes for as long as organized sport has existed. But rugby is different. In rugby, they’re not referred to as referees.

Rather, it’s “sir.”

While rugby is growing in America, so is its officiating body. With no full-time paid referring jobs and growing expectations from fans and players, it’s hard being the individual holding a whistle in the midst of 30 people fighting over a ball.   Continue reading

Dads who exercise may pass down cognitive benefits to their offspring

Mouse study shows offspring of active fathers are better at learning and remembering

By Valerie Nikolas
Medill Reports

Men, if you want smarter kids, it may be time to hit the gym.

When it comes to baby-bearing, women often get the brunt of the responsibility, especially before a child is born. But new evidence shows that a dad’s morning run or lifting session may be responsible for more of his offspring’s cognitive traits than previously thought.

Researchers at the Cajal Institute, a neuroscience research center in Madrid, found in a study with mice that offspring of active fathers learn and recall information better than the offspring of sedentary dads. The study, published last month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), cites “paternal physical activity as a direct factor driving offspring’s brain physiology and cognitive behavior.” Continue reading

Northwestern’s Erro heats up in April after slow start

By Andre Toran
Medill Reports

Northwestern second baseman Alex Erro walked around the batting cage into the batter’s box, swiping rubber pellets into the air as he dug his cleats into the turfed surface at Rocky and Berenice Miller park, and prepared to swing.

Line drive up the middle. Line drive up the middle. Then again, line drive up the middle. One final cut, and Erro drove deep fly ball off the left-field wall.

Swing after swing, Erro squared up balls, jumping off the bat of his compact right-handed swing, whizzing passed the mesh net that shielded Northwestern assistant coach Dusty Napoleon from Erro’s assault.

That was Erro’s second round of batting practice Tuesday before Northwestern’s matchup against UIC, a bite-size sample of what opposing pitchers have had to face over the past month, now that Erro has put early season troubles behind him.

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Lab optimizes performance and prevents injury for warriors, athletes and more

Medill News Service journalist Colleen Zewe is embedding this spring as a reporter with with sports medicine researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences Neuromuscular Research Lab as they enhance performance for warriors and athletes.

By Colleen Zewe
Medill Reports

At first glance, the University of Pittsburgh Neuromuscular Research Lab seems more like a gym than a laboratory. Treadmills, stationary bikes, weight racks and kettlebells all line the walls of the lab, which sits in a sports medicine hub of Pittsburgh. Just a few steps away, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Rooney Sports Complex welcomes the Steelers to practice and train.

But the Bod Pod, underwater treadmills, and an array of experiments hint that these workout machines aren’t used for regular exercise. Instead, they’re measuring warrior performance – the performance of military personnel. NMRL is also Pitt’s Warrior Human Performance Research Center. The researchers strive to optimize the performance of those who are quite literally human warriors: military personnel,  athletes and other active populations. Continue reading

Overcoming obstacles, Northwestern safety Jared McGee looks to take the league by storm

By Andre Earls
Medill Reports

Jared McGee has made it.

Whether it was fighting concussions since he was 14-years-old, coming off of a brutal hip injury in 2017, or even fighting for playing time in the midst of his fifth year season, he’s overcome every obstacle in his path. Sure, the NFL Draft is in April, and sure, he has doubts if he’ll even be drafted at the end of the month. Even so, McGee can still claim victory after everything he’s been through to get to this point.

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Chicago group makes climbing accessible

By Melissa Hovanes
Medill Reports

At age 15, Clarinda Valentine’s life was forever altered. “A guy came in the YMCA shooting and I got the bullet in the back,” said Valentine. “That’s kind of been my life since then. I was a sophomore in high school at the time.”

Forty-nine years later, at age 64, Valentine spends her Wednesday evenings climbing a 50-foot rope at Brooklyn Boulders in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood. She’s been climbing for more than three years with Adaptive Climbing Group Chicago. “I see the benefit in my ability… I’m physically stronger, and more fit,” said Valentine. “It makes my life easier when transferring from the wheelchair.”

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