Football is a thrilling, yet grueling contact sport that often comes along with a high paying salary, and heavy price tag. Once the fame and career are over, players may experience depression, sleep disturbances, and other health problems associated. In fact, experiencing chronic pain is common for athletes. Professional sports are not like a typical 9-to-5 job because there is no sick leave. The game must go on!
Athletes may experience more depression from the combination of chronic pain and stress. The stress can occur from wanting to win, pressure from teammates and fans, and individuals that depend on their income. It’s no secret that some athletes turn to drugs such as steroids, alcohol, and other performance enhancers from the pressures faced. The crutch of drugs can lead an athlete on a downward spiral to major depression, addiction, and in some cases, death.
When headlines reported about the murder-suicide of Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher, 25, and the suicide May 2012 of Junior Seau, 43, it left many wondering if the pressure in the NFL is too much.
According to a study of Retired NFL Players conducted (September 2009) through the University of Michigan, Institute for Social Research 27.2 percent of NFL retirees age 30-49 experience frequent headaches and migraines in comparison to only 9.9 percent of non-athletes. In the same study, 14 percent of NFL-retirees age 50 and older experience headaches and migraines, and only 6.8 percent of non-athletes. Moreover, more than half (62.4 percent) of NFL retirees age 50 and older have an arthritis diagnosis. And most have experienced some form of joint pain.
Managing mental illness and depression in the NFL is important and also learning effective coping skills so that drugs and alcohol doesn’t become a consistent crutch. Also undergoing neurological testing could serve beneficial to make certain of healthy brain function.
Mental illness and depression is often left untreated because many do not report symptoms, under-report, or don’t seek treatment. To learn more about mental illness visit the National Institute of Mental Illness (NIMH).