Discouraging Truth: Pre-Performance Examinations and Collegiate Student- Athlete Mental Health

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Virginia Tech


This study examines how yearly pre-performance examinations (PPEs) for collegiate student-athletes support holistic student-athlete health. Specifically, the study evaluates PPE documents within the ambient environment of intercollegiate athletics and uses ambient rhetoric to demonstrate how PPE documents reify values from the collegiate athletics environment that a student-athlete's physical health and athletic participation is more important than their mental well-being. I argue that the influences of the collegiate athletics environment on the PPE documents inhibits the documents from adequately fulfilling their role of identifying pre-existing health conditions. I highlight three key features of the PPE documents—an underrepresentation of mental health questions, a prioritization of athletic participation, and the use of binary question framing—that do not support student-athlete mental health. These three features on PPE documents discourage student-athletes from being truthful on the documents and guide them to choose between prioritizing their health or their athletics participation. Finally, I connect my scholarship to social justice in technical communication and advocate for the use of ambient rhetoric and the consideration of environment in future rhetoric of health and medicine studies that evaluate institutional medical documents.



mental health, athletics, environment