The coronavirus pandemic has been challenging for everyone in so many ways, but for professional athletes, and fans of professional sports, an extremely important part of their lives have been taken away. The traumatic affects could remain for some time, and pro sports may be forever altered.
"For so many people, sports is a real symbol," says MD & General Psychiatrist Elssy Oms. "It largely contributes to their sense of well being. It's a large part of who they are."
March Madness was canceled. Major Golf Tournaments like the Masters were postponed. The NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball have all been put on hold. It's causing athletes and fans to have even more trouble coping with the coronavirus crisis according to Oms. "Sports is not just for fans and athletes, it's how they cope with emotional stress in life, and regular day to day stress."
That stress is now seemingly at an all time high, with fields and arenas empty, and athletes wondering what what their future holds.
"You don't really know when it's going to end," says Jarrod Saltalamaccia, former Miami Marlins star and World Series Champion with the Red Sox. "Or how to kind of prepare for the next step. That is what scares baseball players or athletes in general is that unknown."
Saltalamacchia says he's never been a germaphobe, but says there could be varying degrees of comfort for the players when baseball does return.
"There are guys who it will play in their minds a little bit, I mean you're touching a baseball, you're throwing it to a guy, guys like to lick their finfers and get a better grip on the ball. You're spitting all over the place, sunflower seeds, you're diving where other people have dived, so there is kind of a health risk I would say that's going to play in come players minds.
"Athletes have a lot of skills, adaptability skills," says Oms. "These are people that voluntarily place themselves in stressful environments, so they already have skills that they can to into."
But feeding off the roar of the crowd may not be an option, with professional leagues considering a return that would not include fans in the stands
"It's Dopomine," says Oms. "It's rewarding.
"Every ache every pain goes away for that moment and you get goosebumps," explains Saltalamacchia. "And you just get a rush of adrenaline."
It's an adrenaline rush that may continue to be missing if fans don't feel safe at stadiums in this new normal.
"It's gonna be not only the individual adaptability, is he an individual that can adapt, to new circumstances," says Oms. "But also external circumstances, that you may have available, new treatment options, vaccines, that give you a sense of safety."
Hopefully eventually rejuvenating a sense of community, camaraderie and pride that's been missing without sports,
"There's just such tradition," says Saltalamacchia. "And that's what our nation needs right now. something positive to look forward too."
"If anything, it's going to be a huge motivator," adds Oms. "So maybe we lost motivation in one sense, because of how tramatic it's been, but thinking of it in that sense, that's what's really going to change. The cullture of sports, and it's going to make us united and stronger probably."