Depression in Sport: The Unknown Heartache

1992 - Derek Redmond favourite for gold in the 400m Barcelona Olympics snaps his hamstring during the semi final ending his Olympic dreams. 1996 – Gareth Southgate misses the penalty in the European championships to deny England a place in the final. 2012 – Andy Murray loses the Wimbledon final to Roger Federer after winning the first set. The closest a British male has coming to winning Wimbledon since 1938. A few days after each event these stories will be forgotten about in our minds, but to the athlete the pain will last a lifetime.

Many of us see sports stars as heroes; they become our children’s role models. Paid hundreds of thousands of pounds a year, living a celebrity lifestyle and of which some of us live in envy compared our own lives, but are they really as invincible as we think or make them out to be? With London 2012 upon us we have a host of stars expected to bring home a gold medal in their respective sports, but what if they don’t? The country will be celebrating in jubilation if Jessica Ennis wins gold in the heptathlon or Mark Cavendish wins gold in the road race event. Yet if they don’t win, their performances will be dissected and reviewed over and over with just their failure broadcast in the spotlight. Four years of preparation, hard work and sweat could all come down to heartbreak and tears in the matter of hours. Dreams shattered and just that one question, what did I do wrong?

Depression and sport do not go hand in hand but if you examine the symptoms of depression it is easy to see such a strong correlation between the two. Worthless, guilty, failure and insomnia are to name just a few feelings of what a sports star will face during their career, and yet we do not associate our stars with these feelings and depression as we never see them as vulnerable. Of course it is not just failing at an event or losing a medal or cup that can lead sports men of woman to feel the emotion of depression. To ours stars sport is a drug, the roar of the crowd at kickoff on a Saturday afternoon. Driving at 190mph in a formula one car and feeling the force of 5g as they corner Silverstone. Standing at the wicket waiting for the first ball of a test match, but as well all know their careers will not last forever. Weather it is due to a severe injury or those lines that every sports star does not want to hear “you’re just not as good as you were” or “you’re getting to old to continue”

So as their career is over and they are no longer doing the job they lived strived and showed for. Not having the sensation of being worshipped by their adoring fans. Maybe coming to the realisation that they may never have reached their full potential and having the apprehension of what do they do now in life? Of course they can move into coaching or the media side of their respective sports but does it really give them the rush they were once used to.

Only recently we have started to see a small insight into sports men and woman showing their elusive emotions through an interview or their autobiographies. Some high profile examples of this are former England cricket captain Freddie Flintoff. After humiliating defeats on the field of play, sacked as vice captain and struggling with alcohol. This led Freddie to re-evaluate his life and pull himself out of the darkness, but to some the numbness can be much worse. Dean Windass found the transition of football to retirement all too much and in January 2012 twice tried to take his own life by way of overdose and then attempting to hang himself. Could this admission be the way forward for sports governing bodies to offer support to their athletes? After the death of Wales’s international manager Gary speed 50.000 handbooks were sent out to pro and former pro footballers about mental health, but is this enough? Should clubs be offering counselling to players coming to the ending of their career? We all know a football club will go on without the player, but can the player go on without the club?

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About Blaine Conway

Blaine Conway has recently started writing sports blogs and is very passionate about what he writes. Blaine is a fan of many sports and is often seen at many events. He is also a dedicated follower of West Ham United and like many other West Ham fans has seen his fair share of heartache over the years, but is confident that hopefully the club is moving in the right direction. Blaine has a passion for acting too and has performed on stage and in front of the camera working with many British and Hollywood actors in his career to date so far.
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