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School and sports cancellations affecting physical and mental health of students

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A study released by Dr. Tim McGuine and the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health shows the true affect the cancellation of school and the spring sports season has had on Wisconsin high school athletes.

The study canvassed more than 3,000 students in 71 of Wisconsin's 72 counties, and found that 65 percent of students reported anxiety symptoms, and nearly 69 percent of students reported depression symptoms. That's a 36 percent increase from past similar studies.

For many student athletes, it was a struggle they're still dealing with, even after months to deal with and process the loss.

That can be said for recent Wausau West graduate Abby Schilling, who lost her senior season to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I guess what was worse about it was the fact that you prepare so much for your final year of high school sports and just all the sudden it can be taken away from you," Schilling said.

That loss affected many students like Schilling very profoundly.

"It's a little lonely," Schilling said. "You play with all your friends, your sports are how you make your friends, who you hang out with, what you spend your time doing. And then all the sudden you can't see them because someone in their family has some ongoing condition, and you can't hang out with them. And then there's limits on how many people you can hang out with. It's kinda depressing."

Like many stuck at home these past few months, the toll it's taken has been huge.

"There's nights when it just hits you, and you honestly cry about it, because you didn't realize it'd be your last season."

As restrictions have loosened, and now the WIAA's contact period has begun, Schilling has found ways to get active.

Today, it was on the diamond at West for the first time this season.

"You finally realize, you start doing things you love, and everything's great again."

This is a big issue school districts are dealing with as they make decisions about the fate of school and sports in the fall: balancing the physical safety of their students with caring for the mental health and wellness of their students.

You can view the full study from Dr. McGuine here:

Brad Hanson

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