As the NBA heads toward the end of the season in its closed-off “bubble” style of competition, dialogue about athletes’ mental health is a conversation that the league continues to push to the side.
While the league’s commissioner Adam Silver implemented the bubble strategy as the best means of mitigating COVID-19 cases amongst players, coaches and press, the severe closed contact nature of the bubble is unsustainable for the player’s psychological health.
Athletes face numerous obstacles that make the bubble a difficult working environment, the greatest concern being isolation. Anyone working within the bubble is prohibited from seeing anyone outside of league-sanctioned COVID-19 testing.
The social isolation of athletes from their families could have harmful effects on their spouses and children.
While athletes are oftentimes on the road during a regular season, they still get to come home from away games and be with their loved ones.
Boredom may seem like a small problem to professional athletes, but players have limited outlets for free time and remain trapped in their work environment in DisneyWorld in Orlando, Florida.
Players are allowed to play golf and video games, and even go on fishing trips, according to the NBA.
While these activities could help manage stress and improve mental health, athletes practice so frequently that they have little time to actually engage in them. NBA players have roughly 60-hour workweeks, according to Bleacher Report.
LA Clippers forward, Paul George, came out about his mental health problems, saying he felt trapped and isolated in the bubble.
“I underestimated mental health,” George said. “I had anxiety. A little bit of depression. Us being locked in here. Whether I was the first to say it or not, we’re all dealing with it.”
The NBA employs numerous psychiatrists and other mental health experts, but a psychiatrist cannot fix problems caused by isolation from friends and family.
Multiple sports have implemented alternate methods of reducing COVID-19 transmission that allow players to continue both competing and seeing their loved ones.
The strict bubble format cannot last the duration of the 2020-2021 season. The NBA needs to figure out a way to allow players to have more freedom and continue their work at the same time.
The Disney World bubble is not as magical as it sounds. It was a money-making scheme made to trap players and make their sole focus basketball.