Depression in Retired Athletes

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depression in retired athletes

Depression in Retired Athletes

For some athletes, retirement is an opportunity to rest and enjoy the fruits of their labor. For others, it’s thought of as a fall from their glory days. Life after sports is not what it’s cracked up to be for many athletes who loved what they did. It’s normal for professional athletes to experience mental health struggles when they’re separated from something they did almost their entire lives. What happens to athletes who have dedicated their lives to sports when they retire? As a drug and alcohol treatment center in Palm Beach that also offers mental health treatment, we wanted to share some possible causes of depression in retired athletes.


What Do Athletes Do After Retirement?

After retirement, athletes choose to stay in the game by becoming coaches, referees, or sports broadcasters. If you’re an avid sports lover, you may notice that almost all announcers on ESPN are retired players, including Jalen Rose, Chauncey Billups, and Chiney Ogwumike. However, not all athletes have the skills to become broadcasters. It takes a certain charisma and ability to capture an audience to succeed in this role. Despite their abilities on the field, coaching can also be challenging. Players that were once responsible for doing their part would now be responsible for an entire team. If something goes wrong, it’s on them, which can cause big problems in professional sports leagues. Other athletes take a completely different route after retirement, often trying their hand at acting. Retired players like Terry Crews and Jason Statham created new careers for themselves as actors after they couldn’t continue playing the sport they spent almost their whole lives training for.


Causes of Depression in Athletes After Retirement

In addition to brain fog and memory loss, many former athletes battle depression. Injured or retired players struggle with guilt, loss of pleasure, decreased energy, lower sex drive, loss of purpose, self-doubt, and difficulties concentrating. They may feel as if they’re trying to run through the rest of their lives with cement blocks tied around their ankles. But why does this happen? One study showed that concussions are linked to depression. In the study, athletes who reported no concussions were only 23.8% as likely to experience depression as those who had experienced ten or more concussions.1 Considering the physicality of the sport, this statistic strongly applies to football players. There’s more to sports retirement and depression. Below are some possible causes of depression in retired players.


Life-long Commitment to the Sport

For professional athletes who trained almost since they were in diapers, retiring equates to losing their identity. These players built a career and even their life on a game they fell in love with. Retirement can feel like someone pulled the rug from under their feet. A hard-earned title is stripped from them in a single moment. For these individuals, they wonder who they are when they’re no longer athletes? These thoughts can make them feel lost, unneeded, and worthless. It’s normal for retired athletes to seek out mental health treatment, such as the type offered at Behavioral Health of the Palm Beaches, to create a new path for themselves.


Difficulties Finding Employment

Many athletes struggle to find employment after retirement because their sport may have been their only skill. This is especially true for players who didn’t go to college or were recruited in their earlier years of school, as they may not have developed any other expertise. Others may not have the charisma or necessary abilities to become sports broadcasters, coaches, or actors. This can also lead to feelings of worthlessness and a sense of lost identity.


Health Problems

In most sports, injuries are inevitable. Some of the most skilled players in the world have suffered horrible physical damage. Unfortunately, many of these injuries have the potential to completely end a person’s career. Between long-term recovery, lack of healing, and missed games, injuries have been the cause of ended sports careers. Alongside injuries are other health complications. For example, Dajuan Wagner is a former professional basketball player who retired after having his colon removed to treat his ulcerative colitis. His efforts to get back into basketball were unsuccessful. There are many more athletes like him whose careers were cut short by injuries and health complications.


Difficult Life Events

Amid their success and sometimes superhuman abilities to play, we forget that athletes are regular people. Pro players also experience challenges and loss in their personal lives. Factors like the death of a loved one, poor health, divorce, and even financial struggles have affected professional athletes. In retirement, these are all added challenges that often widen the wound left by an ended sports career. It’s important to remember that pro athletes, no matter how skilled in their level of expertise, are not immune to common challenges that can plague people.


Public Criticism

Retired athletes also face extensive public criticism. These athletes often feel worthless and irrelevant with hurtful comments on social media. Their lifestyles after sports are often criticized, as well as their families and career choices. This berating can take a mental toll on any human being, especially those previously accustomed to receiving lots of public love and support from fans. Online hate and cyberbullying are some of the many reasons why social media and depression are linked. These problems can affect anyone of any age. If you’re on social media often, be mindful of what you comment and post online.


Ian Thorpe, Neil Lennon, Dame Kelly Holmes, and Ronda Rousey are just some of the many retired sports stars with depression. Although depression and mental illness may always be issues in the sports industry, there are also plenty of available resources that can help. We offer depression recovery treatment among a variety of other mental health programs at our rehab center in Lake Worth. Because many players develop addictions due to injuries and attempt to self-medicate, we also offer a recreational pain pill addiction treatment for athletes.


To learn more about our mental health and addiction treatment in Lake Worth, call us now at 561-220-3981.


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