The following studies seek to show the effects of collegiate and professional sports has on an athlete’s physical and psychological health after their career is over. Many of the studies used analyzed the athletes physical, cognitive and mental health post retirement through cross sectional studies, cohort studies and self reports. The three themes discussed will be head trauma and mental health, the post-career effects of musculoskeletal injuries, and post-career mental health.
Head Trauma and Mental Health
Head trauma during one’s sports career is detrimental to their cognitive and mental health in the future. Over the course of an athlete’s career they are faced with many difficult injuries. One of the most dreaded injuries of contact sports athletes is a concussion. A concussion is considered to be an intense impact to the head; causing extreme headaches, confusion, and even memory loss. An athlete who had multiple major concussions should consider retirement as they could face serious brain damage. Not only does concussions cause trauma to the brain; many studies show that there is a correlation between head trauma and mental health. Five self reported studies and cohort studies were used to help link the correlation between mental health and head trauma.
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Professional athletes in contact sports such as hockey, football and rugby, who had a history of four or more concussions, were 1.5 times more susceptible to a mental disorder such as depression (Gouttebarge, Aoki, Lambert, Stewart & Kerkhoffs 2017). Exposure to a concussion as an adolescent being from 10 to approximately 17 years old can cause adverse outcomes in the future as the brain is still developing as an adolescent (Cover, Roiger & Zwart 2018). Approximately 40% to 80% of concussed individuals developed long term concussion symptoms, and about 15% still experience symptoms 1 year after getting the concussion (Cover, Roiger & Zwart 2018). According to a study done by the Journal of Athletic Training in 2018, a long term side effect of having multiple concussions is a severe short term memory (Cover, Roiger & Zwart 2018). The correlation between mental health and cognitive degeneration due to concussions is that concussions are directly related to poor cognitive health, leading to the deterioration of grey matter in your brain (Roberts, Pascual-Leone, Speizer, Zafonte, Baggish, Taylor & Weisskopf 2019). Symptoms of poor cognitive health leading to depression can show up even up to 20 years post concussion (Rice, Parker & Rosenbaum 2018; Van Ramele, Aoki, Kerhoffs & Gouttebarge 2017). According to Roberts et al (2019) , Anxiety and depression symptoms appear post concussion and do not heal as physical symptoms heal.
These studies were grouped together as they have information pertaining to concussions and how they affect cognitive development; as well as have a correlation to common mental disorders. The information used was found from questionnaires and physical examinations. The limitations within the studies used were that they had a small sample size. The strength of these studies were that they go in depth toward the way that they physically examine the subjects within the student.
Post Career Effects of Musculoskeletal Injuries
Major musculoskeletal injuries are very common in professional and collegiate sports, such as Achilles tendon tears or a pulled hamstring. These major injuries can affect the athlete for life in the way that the muscle or tendon will never feel as strong as it was pre-injury. The studies use a cross-sectional studies that use questionnaire and physical evaluation to determine the extent of the injuries. Three studies were used when describing the effects major injuries have on retired athletes.
Knee injuries are very common and can cause a permanent disability to the athlete (Kujala, Orava, Parkkari, Kaprio & Sarna 2003). When having a musculoskeletal Injury, it has been determined that the early onset of osteoporosis is inevitable due to the stress on the bones and joints (Kujala et al 2003). When participating in high intensity sports such as basketball, soccer and track and field; it was determined that the chance of developing premature osteoporosis as the intense impact on joints (Kujala et al 2003). Many major injuries that cause long term complications are injuries that are impairments that affect the head, neck and shoulder injuries that cause damage to the surrounding nerves (Kujala et al 2003). Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears are one of the most detrimental injuries power athletes face in sports (Maffulli, Longo, Gougoulias, Loppini & Denaro 2010). Experiencing an ACL injury at a young age could cause implications such as a shift in the growth plate and a disturbance in growth (Maffulli et al 2010). Results of this injury could be angular deformity, altered joint mechanics and unable to achieve the same power and mobility(Dekker, Groothoff,Van Der Sluis, Eisma & Ten Duis 2003) . Not only can sports injuries affect your day to day life post retirement, it could also leave you with a disability or even handicapped (Dekker et al 2003).
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Studies regarding the long term effects of sports related musculoskeletal injuries were used in this section. The majority of the information came from physical examinations of retired athletes with a history of major injuries. The limitations in the studies used were that they relied on questionnaires. However, the strengths in these studies relies on the large sample size of the studies
Post-Career Mental Health
After an athlete retires, they face an immense amount of depression as they lose something that took up a majority of their life. Many athletes experience a loss of self identity. When an athlete is forced to retire due to injury, a feeling that the athlete lost a sense of purpose is very painful (Woods 2017). The studies used in this theme were cohort studies that relied on questionnaires. Due to the mental and physical toughness required to be a professional or collegiate athlete, athletes that face this loss of identity tend to be very competitive and are very hard on themselves during their everyday life (Lavallee & Wylleman 2000). Seven studies were used when linking the correlation between retirement and depression.
Retirement, weather being forced or the athletes choice, has important economic, interpersonal, and psychological consequences for the individual (Lavallee, Gordon & Grove 1996). Retired athletes experience feelings of extreme sadness due to injuries incurred during their athletic career, loss of identity and missing being able to play the sport they love (Weigand, Cohen& Merenstein 2013). However, the feeling of a loss of purpose or self worth was closely linked to how highly recognized the athlete was in the sport (Sanders & Stevinson 2017). Results according to Sanders and Stevinson (2017) a career-ending injury creates a high chance of having depression during retirement. Depression affects approximately 7% of adults today, when comparing non-injured athletes to retired athletes the rate of depression was 27% to 33% meaning that retired athletes have a slightly higher chance of depression (Wolanin, Gross & Hong 2015). The ending of an athlete’s career has been associated with substance abuse and increased anger issues do to this dramatic time in their life (Wolanin et al. 2015). It is stated that the prevalence of depression depends on the sport the athlete played, as well as the position (Prinz, Dvořák & Junge 2016). High stress positions such as being a pitcher in baseball or a goalie in ice hockey showed a significant increase in depression when compared to other sports (Prinz, Dvořák & Junge 2016).
The information within this theme was compiled through studies that were done through physical examination and questionnaires. The articles used had information pertaining to loss of self identity due to retirement from sport and post career depression. The strength of the studies used in this theme were that they had large sample sizes and used very in depth questionnaires. The limitations of these studies were that they were all self reports and did not do a psychological examination.
- Weigand, S., Cohen, J., & Merenstein, D. (2013). Susceptibility for Depression in Current and Retired Student Athletes. Sports Health: A Multidisciplinary Approach, 5(3), 263–266. Retrieved from https://search-ebscohost-com.unr.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=sph&AN=87294989&site=ehost-live&scope=site
- Lavallee, D., & Wylleman, P. (2000). Career transitions in sport: international perspectives. Morgantown, W.Va.; : Fitness Information Technology. Retrieved from https://search-ebscohost-com.unr.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=sph&AN=SPHS-798116&site=ehost-live&scope=site
- Sanders, G., & Stevinson, C. (2017). Associations between retirement reasons, chronic pain, athletic identity, and depressive symptoms among former professional footballers. European Journal of Sport Science, 17(10), 1311–1318. Retrieved from https://search-ebscohost-com.unr.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=sph&AN=125880828&site=ehost-live&scope=site
- van Ramele, S., Aoki, H., Kerkhoffs, G. M. M. J., & Gouttebarge, V. (2017). Mental health in retired professional football players: 12-month incidence, adverse life events and support. Psychology of Sport & Exercise, 28, 85–90. Retrieved from https://search-ebscohost-com.unr.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=sph&AN=119584188&site=ehost-live&scope=site
- Kujala, U.M., Orava, S., Parkkari, J. et al. Sports Med (2003) 33: 869. https://doi.org/10.2165/00007256-200333120-00001
- Gouttebarge,V., Aoki, H.,Lambert, M., Stewart, W., & Kerkhoffs, G. (2017) A history of concussions is associated with symptoms of common mental disorders in former male professional athletes across a range of sports, The Physician and Sportsmedicine, 45:4, 443-449, DOI: 10.1080/00913847.2017.1376572
- Rice, S.M., Parker, A.G., Rosenbaum, S. et al. Sports Med (2018) 48: 447. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-017-0810-3
- Woods, R. F. (2017, November 9). Coping With Identity Loss: An Athlete’s Life After Sport. Retrieved from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/cultivating-contentment/2017/11/coping-with-identity-loss-an-athletes-life-after-sport/.
- Lavallee , D., Gordon, S., & Grove, J.R. (1997) Retirement from sport and the loss of athletic identity, Journal of Personal & Interpersonal Loss, 2:2, 129-147, DOI: 10.1080/10811449708414411
- Rice, S.M., Parker, A.G., Rosenbaum, S. et al. Sports Med (2018) 48: 447. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-017-0810-3
- Roberts, A. L., Pascual-Leone, A., Speizer, F. E., Zafonte, R. D., Baggish, A. L., Taylor, H., … Weisskopf, M. G. (2019). Exposure to American Football and Neuropsychiatric Health in Former National Football League Players: Findings From the Football Players Health Study. The American Journal of Sports Medicine, 47(12), 2871–2880. https://doi.org/10.1177/0363546519868989
- Maffulli, N. Longo, U.G., Gougoulias, N., Loppini, M., Denaro, V. (2010)Long-term health outcomes of youth sports injuries, British Journal of Sports Medicine 2;44:21-25. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bjsm.2009.069526
- Dekker, R., Groothoff, J. W., Van Der Sluis, C. K., Eisma, W. H., & Ten Duis, H. J. (2003). Long-term disabilities and handicaps following sports injuries: outcome after outpatient treatment. Disability & Rehabilitation, 25(20), 1153. Retrieved from https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=sph&AN=11093636&site=ehost-live&scope=site
- Wolanin A, Gross M, Hong E. Curr Sports Med Rep. 2015 Jan;14(1):56-60. doi: 10.1249/JSR.0000000000000123.
- Prinz B, Dvořák J, Junge A. BMJ Open Sport Exerc Med. 2016 May 31;2(1):e000124. eCollection 2016.
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