Depression In Sport

Sunday November 27th 2011, will be remembered by the majority of sport fans, particularly soccer fans, with a mixture of shock and sadness. On this particular Sunday, the sporting world learned of the sad passing of Gary Speed, professional soccer player, Manager of the Welsh National soccer team.

Just 24 hours earlier many soccer fans had watched him talk about the sport on BBC’s Football Focus. Some weeks previously the Welsh National team’s victory over Norway had seen them rise from 117th to 45th in the FIFA rankings during the short term of his stewardship. Everything seemed bright and hopeful.

The You Tube clip attached is an excellent piece on Depression in Sport by the BBC. It talks about the loss of so many of our sports stars to suicide or suspected suicide.

Many more talk about their own battles with Depression and how it has affected their lives. Marcus Trescothick and Michael Yardy talk about leaving the England Cricket team’s tours abroad because of the disease.


Frank Bruno discusses life after sport and how depression had affected him. 

Then there are the sad cases of those who are not around to tell their story – Ireland’s Olympic Boxer Darren Sutherland,

  • German Goalkeeper Robert Enke,
  • Chicago Bears player Dave Duerson,
  • NHL enforcer Rick Rypien,
  • Skier Jeret Speedy Peterson,
  • Orioles pitcher Mike Flanagan.

There is no sport that has not been touched by this disease.

Depression & Sport

A recent article on the excellent blog on Neal Collins, a british sports journalist, talks about the expereince of Dean Windass, a recently retired soccer player. You can read Neal’s article here.

The most dramatic piece of the article tells of how Windass sought help for his depression from a clinic set up specifically to help former sports people: “But Windass was told he cannot check in until next month for therapy sessions because the centre in London is fully booked with other former sportsmen and women who desperately need help for a range of problems.”

Athletic Heroes

Our sports stars are the modern version of Hercules. They are athletic heroes. The macho professionals, hardened and well-oiled sporting machines trained to perform to the highest athletic standards.

They are devoid of mental weaknesses like depression or anxiety – or are they?

What we seem to forget is that these modern Hercules’ are human too and that mental illnesses like depression amongst elite – indeed all athletes needs to be out in the open.

We assume that these are all millionaires – they have nothing to worry about. Stan Collymore, professional footballer, was once told by his manager “How can you be depressed on the money you’re on?”.

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