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'Reality is they bleed, too': Local experts talk about the mental challenges athletes face

As some high profile athletes put a pause on competing to pay more attention to their mental health, here are some things to keep in mind.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Simone Biles' withdrawal from the individual all-around competition to focus on her mental health shocked the world.

USA Gymnastics made the announcement on Wednesday. The withdrawal comes after the 24-year-old, cited as one of the greatest gymnasts of all time, walked away from her team for mental health reasons.

RELATED: Olympic champ Biles withdraws from all-around competition

Shawn Arent, Professor and Chair of the Department of Exercise and Science at USC says, "It's hard to put yourself in that position, when you are the elites of the elite."

He went on to say, "When you take some of these athletes that are incredibly high profile, there's these high expectations from the country behind them, and they themselves expect near perfection."

Arent said gymnastics is a physically demanding sport with high injury rates. "It takes more than just talent. There's a whole other factor that goes to capability to mentally discipline yourself."

He says it's also psychologically difficult. "They're human, I think that's the part we forget. We're so used to these superhuman type feats where we are in awe of what they can accomplish. Reality is they bleed, too."

RELATED: The 'twisties': Explaining the frightening phenomenon Simone Biles mentioned

Arent, who's currently training Olympic athletes says, "While sports stars have mental help, more needs to be done to ensure they're mentally fit and ready to compete."

"I wish it didn't have to get to a point where they hit a breaking point, having to pull out because they can't handle that strain in the biggest competition possible."

Sociology professor Dr. Mathieu Deflem from USC says the culmination of pressure and expectations can be debilitating to an athlete.

"For people who have very high achievement, also have very high pressures," said Deflam.

"You have the weight of the entire nation on your shoulders, and the entire world is watching."

For parents with athletic children, Deflam says the most important thing is to balance success. "It's still possible to be successful and any form striving to be successful will come with its own rewards and strains, but we have to be more balanced in our approach to success."

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