The International Olympic Committee (IOC) recently cited research from The University of Tulsa in a paper titled “Mental health in elite athletes: International Olympic Committee consensus statement.” The paper used research about obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and stigma from the lab of Lisa Cromer, an associate professor of psychology at TU.
The research was originally performed as part of the Student Health Athletic Performance and Education (SHAPE), a free program started by Cromer to help student-athletes develop sport psychology skills. Cromer was not personally notified of the citation, but rather discovered it by chance.
“While working on a new manuscript, I wanted to double check a fact, and when I went to the web, this IOC article popped up. I started reading it and then realized they cited a lot of work from my lab, here at TU,” she recalled. “The International Olympic Committee consensus statement is basically a task force from the IOC telling the world about the health of elite athletes, so citing the work performed at TU in a paper about best practices is a tremendous honor.”
One of the citations caught her eye because it was the work of Mitchell Johnson, who was an undergraduate student at the time.
Johnson (BS ’12) was pleased with the recognition.
“When I heard the IOC was citing our work, I was thrilled to see this topic receiving greater attention within athletics, especially from one of sports’ highest governing bodies,” he said. “I expect this topic – the mental health of athletes – to continue to receive more attention at the high school, collegiate and professional levels, and it’s great that The University of Tulsa is contributing to this important work.”
Cromer recounted how Johnson came to work in the research lab. “I tend to have a lot of undergrads in my lab and support undergraduate research,” she said. “In this case, one student that was just a gem in my undergrad classes. He took advantage of the opportunity to work with my graduate students, and together their work was so impactful that now one of the most important committees of sport recognized it.”
Danielle Zanotti (MA ’16, PhD ’19), whose work was also cited, said that the research, in addition to the work of the SHAPE program at TU, is spotlighting an increasingly prevalent issue.
“Collegiate athletes are extremely resilient and high-achieving individuals,” Zanotti said. “However, that doesn’t mean they are immune to mental health issues and in some ways are at a higher risk for developing mental health issues due to the multiple and compounding stressors they face related to academic, athletic and developmental demands.
“It’s an honor to have played a role in several years of research and intervention carried out by the SHAPE research team that has contributed to a growing research base focused on understanding and improving the mental well-being of elite athletes. The citation from the IOC is both an honor and a reflection of the importance of the work that so many people at TU have contributed to.”
Cromer agreed, and said it was not a stroke of luck that work from an undergraduate was cited, but rather a combination of hard work and an environment that supports such research. “This highlights the strengths of TU: small class sizes allow me to get to know each student and his or her strengths; I have my own research lab; and having graduate assistants to help coordinate and support research allows me to publish work, including work with undergrads.”
She added, “I’ve always known I have incredible grad students and undergrads, but times like this show the world how special TU can be.”