In bio-bubbles for months, players at risk of psychological impact

The Indian players will spend about six months inside a bubble by the time the Australia series ends

Indian cricketers
Suggesting solutions, Upton said shorter tours and rotating players are some of the options | File Photo: PTI

In bio-bubbles for months, Indian cricketers are now at a psychological risk, with mind gurus claiming not enough is being done to understand this concern.

A bio-bubble is an isolated environment that aims at reducing risks of getting infected with Covid-19. The Indian players, who are now on a tour to Australia following the IPL in UAE, will spend about six months inside a bubble by the time the ongoing series ends.

The Australian players have already faced issues of anxiety attacks, The Indian Express quoted Cricket Australia’s consultant sports psychiatrist Dr Ranjit Menon as saying, on quarantine situations faced by athletes.

Watch | Despite bio-bubble, CSK members test positive for COVID-19

He said being quarantined can “play havoc with players” who have performance-related issues or someone unwell in their families. “And we don’t have enough experience to confidently say we have it under control or what potential problems await us,” he said.

In isolation in hotel rooms, the players “overthink” about their upcoming games that gets them mentally exhausted, said sports psychologist Paddy Upton, according to the report. He said the longer they spend in bubbles, the more “a unique set of dynamics will unfold, new needs will arise.”

“I’m not hearing a whole lot of cricket authorities who are undertaking research to understand what the psychological impact will be on players and being active around preventative measures,” the report quoted him as saying.

The BCCI is in regular touch with the support staff and “taking feedback about the players’ mental state,” the board’s treasurer Arun Dhumal said, as per the report. He said the selectors and support staff have been told to inform the board if any player feels mental fatigue or needs a break.

Upton is concerned about activities like playing video games and using social media inside bio-bubble, which he said are designed to be addictive and more usage leads to an increase in chemical stress levels in their bodies which necessitates the need for stimulation. “And when that is not met, things like depression await,” he said.

Suggesting solutions, Upton said shorter tours and rotating players are some of the options.

Menon said the situation requires a proper medical support system that monitors the mental fatigue levels and behavioural changes of players, which would help in early identification of the symptoms. “Else, this can blow up in our faces,” he said.

Meanwhile, in back-to-back bubbles after subsequent series, the Indian players have been allowed to move around a bit in Sydney, but a single sign of trouble may attract stricter curbs.

(Please reach out to a mental health specialist if you need support or know someone who does. Helplines: AASRA: +91 98204 66726; SAHAI: 080 25497777)