The Mental Health of Football Players

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As we transition from summer to fall, our focus turns to enjoying the football season. Football is an important part of our culture and can be a lot of fun. Unfortunately football has a darkside. Athletes are prone to mental health issues, depression and suicidal thoughts. More and more professional football players are being encouraged to seek help from a mental help therapist.

What Causes Mental Health Issues in Football Players?

With an estimated 26.2% of Americans suffering from a mental illness, it’s not surprising that a high number of football players would be affected. Football players are put under intense pressure. They are constantly pushing themselves to be better and always in the public eye, causing everything from clinical depression to mood disorders. Their self discipline and desire to succeed can lead to becoming obsessive compulsive or even developing an eating disorder.

Football players also sustain a large number of head injuries, which can lead to traumatic brain Injuries. Players in the National Football League have a very high risk of brain-related injuries, which can lead to changes in mood and personality disorders. Recovery from a traumatic brain injury takes time, rest and mental health treatment. But during football season, athletes may not take the time to fully recover

Mental Health Stigma in Football

Mental health issues in football should be discussed openly since they are common and can be treated. But sadly, there seems to be a mental health stigma in the world of sports. Athletes may be embarrassed to admit that something is wrong and hide the negative effects the sport is having on them. They may view mental illness as a weakness and fear others will look at them differently if they come forward.

The best way to erase the mental health stigma in football is to talk about it openly. Many professional athletes have come forward in recent years and admitted to struggling with mental health problems. A former player for the Detroit Lions, Eric Hipple, struggled with depression while he played and later lost a son to suicide. Hipple is now a public advocate for suicide prevention. Ricky Williams, a former running back for the Baltimore Ravens, has admitted to suffering from social anxiety disorder. Williams sought out treatment and is able to enjoy his life because of it.

Sports Therapy for Football Players

Due to their high levels of stress and intense physical demands, all football players would benefit from seeing a mental health therapist. Even if an athlete is mentally healthy, talking to a psychiatrist can help keep stress and anxiety from leading to problems down the road. Finding a mental health therapist who specializes in sports therapy is ideal. Local counseling centers and group therapy for athletes are also good options.

Football is an amazing sport to watch and to play. Americans look forward to football season all year, and surely players do too. By removing the existing mental health stigma and encouraging them to take care of their minds along with their bodies, it will be even more enjoyable for everyone.

Dr. Tucker was interviewed for an article on the sentencing of ex-Dolphins wide receiver, David Boston. Click here to read the full article.

Click here to learn more about Dr. Tucker’s sports psychiatry services.