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Mental health and suicide in former professional soccer players
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  • Published on:
    Response to: Mental health and suicide in former professional soccer players
    • Adam J White, Lecturer Oxford Brookes University
    • Other Contributors:
      • Alan Pearce, Associate Professor
      • Jo Batey, Senior Fellow
      • Keith D Parry, Senior Lecturer
      • Gary Turner, PhD Student
      • Eric Anderson, Professor

    Russell et al. (1) published a retrospective cohort study with a population of former professional soccer players with known high neurodegenerative mortality. Findings showed that they are at lower risk of common mental health disorders and have lower rates of suicide than a matched general population. These findings are surprising and different from previous studies, which have used first-hand clinical accounts of ex-athletes who have lived with neurodegeneration (1). We suggest there may be reasons for this disparity and welcome critical dialogue with the authors of this research.

    Cohort Comparison
    Russell et al. has compared their soccer cohort with a matched population cohort. However, the matched cohort may also include those who have experienced repetitive head impacts, such as amateur soccer players, rugby players or boxers. Therefore, the study represents differences of elite versus non-elite rather than sport versus non-sport. While Russell recognises the healthy worker effect (2), it may have a greater influence in this study than presented.

    Soccer Stoicism
    Men’s engagement in health-seeking behaviours has been a long-standing concern in health care and is often attributed to factors such as stigma, hypermasculinity and stoicism (3). Furthermore, working-class sports such as soccer, require the acceptance of pain, suffering, and physical risk, so these players are more likely to ‘suffer in silence’ than the general population (4). Give...

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    Conflict of Interest:
    None declared.