Depression a worrying side effect of virus shutdown for idle footballers

first_imgPARIS, France (AFP) — Prevented from doing their jobs and often confined at home, there are concerns about the mental health of isolated professional footballers during the novel coronavirus pandemic.A study by global players’ union FIFPRO published Monday warned of a sharp rise in the number of footballers reporting symptoms of anxiety and depression since the game was suspended worldwide.“We have had many concerns about players with their mental response to the isolation. Many of the foreign players don’t have family with them, spend a lot of time on their own, away from their loved ones, which is very challenging,” said Jonas Baer-Hoffmann, FIFPRO’s general secretary.The union’s survey of 1,602 players in 16 countries revealed 13 per cent of men reported symptoms of depression, and 16 per cent symptoms of anxiety. Among women the numbers were higher: 22 per cent for depression and 18 per cent for anxiety.It is a major increase from a similar study done in January and indicates that the same worries felt by the general population about the pandemic are combining with the difficulty of adapting to life without football.Michael Bennett, the director of player welfare at England’s Professional Footballers’ Association, told the BBC that at first it may feel like “a honeymoon period” but added that “we always thought the longer it went on that’s when it would hit home”.As Baer-Hoffmann suggests, not all players have been lucky enough to have family with them.Spain great Andres Iniesta has spoken of his struggles with depression when starring for Barcelona and the important role his family played.Players on short-term contracts at clubs below the elite may fear for their future careers, but even at the top of the men’s game, where wages are often astronomical, there are concerns.Philippe Godin, a sports psychologist at the University of Leuven in Belgium, says many footballers are experiencing the same feeling of emptiness that often hits players on retiring.In Germany, the widow of a Bundesliga star, who took his life, has given tips on how to stay positive.Germany goalkeeper Robert Enke committed suicide in 2009 after a long battle with depression. His widow, Teresa Enke, runs the Robert Enke Foundation, which offers support for athletes suffering from depression.There are some players who are fortunate enough to be back training, including in Germany, where authorities hope to resume top-flight matches next month.last_img read more