News from the WPA Section on Exercise and Sports Psychiatry

BDSA: A screening scale for depression in athletes


The chair of the WPA Section on Exercise and Sports Psychiatry, Professor David Baron, has recently copyrighted a screening scale for depression in athletes (Baron Depression Scale for Athletes; BDSA). The Section is currently translating it for global use. It is the first of to be used and tested on an international scale.


The BDSA is the culmination of having been an athlete, coach, sports medicine doctor and sports psychiatrist. The idea to develop a depression screener for athletes began in 1979, while working with the Special Olympics and taking care of high school athletes. I observed that the presenting symptoms of a mood disorder in athletes often presented with a change in affect related to competition and training. These changes in baseline mental functioning routinely preceded classic mood symptoms associated with a depressive disorder.


During the 1984 Olympic Games, while working in the Olympic Village and with the aquatic sports athletes, my original observations were confirmed while working with a number of athletes who later were diagnosed with clinical depression. Over the past 25 years I have been fortunate to work as a Doping Control officer and sports psychiatrist at virtually every level of competition. I have shared my clinical observations with respected sports psych colleagues who confirmed my ideas. Specifically, Prof. Hap Davis, a sports psychologist with the Canadian Olympic team, Prof. Samir AbolMagd, a sports psychiatrist in Cairo, and Steven Baron, a youth  and former Olympic sports psychologist, all agreed that mood symptoms often first present with changes in attitudes towards training and competing. Prof. Davis has conducted fMRI studies on depressed athletes and demonstrated the effectiveness of CBT. We have discussed another depression screener utilizing an athlete observing a video of a poor performance. It was my work with Prof. Davis and time I spent working with Prof. Aaron Beck that inspired me to develop and copyright the BDSA. The items are in many ways a sports version of the Beck Depression Inventory. In order to be clinically useful, I have been able to trim the final version down to 10 items.


It is currently being validated by a collaboratative effort of members of the WPA Section on Exercise and Sports Psychiatry. Although copyrighted in the US, there is no charge to use the scale. I only request feedback be made available to the author and WPA Sports Section for ongoing refinement.

David Baron
 Chair, WPA Section on Exercise and Sports Psychiatry




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