When Recovery Requires Rest
By backing away from major sports tournaments, three high profile athletes have prioritized their healing above all else
We rarely discuss ‘rest’ as a strategy for well-being.
However, over the last month, three professional athletes withdrew from major tournaments in order to prioritize rest for both their emotional and physical recovery, which has prompted some necessary conversation.
First, 23 year-old Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open (and later, Wimbledon), citing her mental health as the need to step away to recover. Then, 39-year-old Roger Federer announced he was stepping back from the French Open to give himself time to heal from a series of knee injuries. And most recently, Steph Curry, 33, of the Golden State Warriors made the surprising announcement that he wouldn’t be participating in the Tokyo Olympics, as he wanted to ‘focus on rest.’
Indeed, all three high-ranking athletes have set a precedent for professional athletes to speak up about the need to take a break as part of their healing, placing their mental and physical health above the push to perform. They also offer a chance to revisit the science of why it’s crucial to promote rest for recovery — not just for sports but for all of us.
The idea that athletes specifically are subject to grueling schedules isn’t new.
In the world of professional sports, pushing through pain in order to participate in a game is commonplace. Injuries in recent years among athletes run the gamut: from the more notorious chronic traumatic encephalopathy to blood clots — both of which can be devastating for athletes’ health and can ultimately end careers. Just recently, after collapsing on the field, soccer star Christian Eriksen was diagnosed with an arrhythmia, requiring a defibrillator. In each of these examples, playing the sport itself contributed to poor health.
These themes are echoed in other industries too. Everyone from journalists to doctors cited burnout secondary to excessive demands during to the Covid-19 pandemic. Indeed, in Japan, the term “karoshi” (as in death due to overwork) is recognized as a healthcare problem.