between retirement reasons, chronic pain, athletic identity, and depressive
symptoms among former professional footballers
Sanders G, Stevenson C. 2017; European Journal of Sport
Science. ahead of print.

Take Home
: A career-ending injury
makes a professional athlete more likely to have depression symptoms during
retirement. Experiencing chronic pain and maintaining a high sense of athletic
identity also increase risk of depression.
Numerous factors increase the risk of depression
following retirement from a professional sport. However, we often study each
factor without considering the other factors, and little is known if athletic
identify and retirement reasons are associated with depression later in life.
Therefore, the authors examined relationships between career-ending injury,
chronic pain, athletic identity, and depressive symptoms in 307 retired United
Kingdom professional footballers (~47 years old).Participants completed an
online survey, where they answered questions regarding demographic information
(age, duration of career, level of career, year of retirement, reason of
retirement), depressive symptoms (Short Depression-Happiness Scale), pain (11-point pain intensity numerical rating scale), and athletic identity (Athletic Identity Measurement Scale). The authors
found that 48 participants (16%) reported depressive symptoms. Within the
depressed cohort, career ending injury (73%) and injury-related pain (96%) were
the main reasons they retired. In the non-depressed cohort injury-related pain
(64%) and family/personal reason (43%) were the main reasons for retirement.
The athletes reporting depression symptoms were also younger and more recently
retired. Lastly, the authors found that athletes were 3 times more likely to be
depressed if they retired due to the injury, and they were almost 1.5 times
more likely to be depressed if they reported chronic pain and a greater sense
of athletic identity.
of the athletes reported that presence of injury-related pain was the main
reason for retirement (211; 69%); however, the authors found that one of the largest
risk contributors to depression symptoms after retirement was a career-ending
injury. They also found that those with a strong sense of athletic identity
were more likely to be depressed. This suggests that the abruptness of leaving
a career when an athlete has a significant tie to it can lead to negative emotional
effects later in life. These findings provide support for retired athletes to
have continued medical care. Currently, medical professionals should understand
the risk factors that contribute to depression in athletes later in life.
Clinicians need to educate athletes on the appropriate follow-up care especially
in athletes with career-ending injuries. This follow up care may also need to
include psychological support. Additionally, we may be able to advocate for
other roles for the athlete to maintain some athletic identity such as participating
as a coach or being involved administratively in that club or association.
for Discussion
: Have you ever
followed up with an athlete after a career ending injury? Do you think we would
see similar results in a collegiate population? Do you think involvement in the
athletic community (coach, lower level participants, administrating) would help
the athletic identity to halter depressions symptoms?
Written by: Jane McDevitt, PhD
by: Jeff Driban
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