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Stars who shone on the athletics track, the football field, and the cricket pitch will next week join an expert on sports psychology to discuss the impact that sport can have on mental health, in an online event hosted by the World Innovation Summit for Health, Qatar Foundation’s global health initiative.

Mental Health & Sport: The Challenge of Balancing Risk With Reward will feature a panel discussion where participants will share first-hand experiences of the pressures that elite-level sport creates, and the toll it can take amid the trophies, medals, and glory. It comes as the importance of maintaining mental wellbeing is thrown into even sharper focus by the strain that COVID-19 has placed on individuals and societies worldwide.

The panelists brought together by the World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH) are double Olympic gold medal-winning athlete Dame Kelly Holmes, former Liverpool FC and England footballer Robbie Fowler, ex-Pakistan cricket captain Wasim Akram, and Professor Claudia Reardon, a psychiatrist specializing in sports at the University of Wisconsin and co-chair of the International Olympic Committee’s working group on mental health and elite athletes. The one-hour event, which is free to view, starts at 5pm Doha time on Wednesday, August 26.

WISH 2020 – the latest edition of WISH’s biannual international health summit, which will take place virtually from November 15-19 – will include a focus on sport and health, as well as on mental health. “Sport has emerged as a field needing special focus in terms of mental health, with many prominent athletes raising public awareness by speaking out about their own battles, both while competing and after retiring,” said Sultana Afdhal, CEO of WISH.

“This virtual discussion provides the perfect opportunity to highlight key issues surrounding sport and mental health ahead of WISH’s November summit.”

Fowler – whose 19-year football career included 128 goals in 266 games for Liverpool, and 26 caps for England – has spoken about the challenges that fame poses for young footballers, and of the need for sports stars to be more open about discussing their mental health with teammates. “The mental health of sportsmen and women is an issue that has rightly started to receive a lot more attention recently, so I’m happy to be part of the WISH panel discussion and to hear other people’s opinions on the topic.”

Since an athletics career that featured 12 major championship medals ended, Dame Kelly has opened up about her personal mental health struggles and established a charity that uses the skills of world-class athletes to help hard-to-reach young people fulfil their potential. Cricketing legend turned commentator and coach Akram, regarded as one of the best bowlers of all time, took over 900 international wickets and, for six years, was captain of the Pakistan national side – often described as one of the most highly-pressurized jobs in sport. The panel discussion will be moderated by BBC Sport and BBC News presenter Dan Walker, who recently hosted a conversation on mental health and football with HRH the Duke of Cambridge. It will be followed by a 30-minute question-and-answer session, with viewers having the chance to pose their questions to the speakers.

To register to attend the webinar click here

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