Sports are known to present a high risk for physical injury, but FIFA reports a third of players have mental issues, which highlights another side of the coin. Recent studies conducted by FIFPro have uncovered that problems, such as depression and anxiety, are common among football players.
It’s an issue that often slips by in the world of ‘masculine’ professional players. It remains hidden, as most either don’t admit it or only later on report signs of mental issues. Not to mention the fact that most might fear a drop in their market price if their medical charts indicate certain problems.
However, the study led by FIFPro’s chief medical officer, Vincent Gouttebarge, has found that football players often battle problems with depression and anxiety at a higher level than previously thought. The study was conducted on 607 current players and 219 former players to better differentiate the symptoms linked to the sport.
Among the current players, 55% had spent a majority of their sports career at the highest level possible in their country, and the same went for 64% of the retired players.
The results showed that 38% of current players and 35% of former players have suffered from episodes of depression or anxiety within the 30 days before the study. A previous study has revealed that the numbers were of 26% and 39% respectively in 2014, but haven now seen modifications.
The point was to clarify and bring such problems to public attention. These mental issues have been linked to injuries, depending on frequency and severity. In fact, professional players who had three or more serious injuries were between 2 to 4 times more likely to develop mental health issues.
Be it because of pain experience or the burden of being sidelined, it seems that certain preventable factors are overlooked.
Among those interviewed, 23% of current players and 28% of retired players have reported trouble sleeping, including sleep disturbance.
Alcohol abuse sees a more understandable difference, rating at 9% of current players and 25% among former players. Though being out of practice and no longer playing could have a major impact as to why those who retired have a more lenient restraint.
According to Dr. Gouttebarge, he hopes that the study will prompt FIFA to impose a “multidisciplinary approach to a severely injured footballer”. The problem might travel deeper than previously thought.
This is a necessary step in encouraging the organizations to propose “adequate preventive and supportive measures” that will deal with all potential issues for their players. Bringing awareness is just one step of the way.
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