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FIFPro, the World Footballers' Association, will make an important announcement, this Wednesday (April 2), uncovering the extent of 'Mental Illness in Professional Football'. It follows an international study conducted by FIFPro's Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Vincent Gouttebarge, of more than 300 current and former professional footballers from the Netherlands, Ireland, Scotland, USA, Australia and New Zealand.

The findings reveal wide-spread examples of footballers who have experienced symptoms of depression and anxiety, among other mental health issues. This will provide rare insight and much-needed scientific data as the basis for an informed discussion around a highly sensitive topic, which often sees its victims living in darkness.

Dr. Gouttebarge said the study reveals “some dark sides” to being a full-time professional footballer and provides a much-needed reference point to help improve the overall health of the players, at all stages of their career, particularly when transitioning to life after football.

“The attention given to the professional footballers’ health by international governing bodies or clubs, and most researchers, is principally directed toward the occurrence of injuries, which is peculiar as health involves not only physical well-being but also mental and social well-being, both short and long term.”

“FIFPro is taking the lead on a global scale to educate and support players, while empowering them to come forward by removing the stigma associated with mental illness in football,” concluded Dr. Gouttebarge.

Objectives

Considering the lack of knowledge about mental illness, and with regard to the presence of several physical and psychological stressors during and after a career in professional football, FIFPro and six national unions – who help form a network of 55 FIFPro members worldwide - supported an international scientific study to gather data about mental illness among current and former professional footballers.

Outline of the FIFPro study

The six national unions which collaborated in the study are PFA Australia, PFAI (Ireland), VVCS (The Netherlands), NZPFA (New Zealand), PFA Scotland and MLSPU (USA).

Measurement of mental health illness

In the study, the following outcome measures related to mental illness were included: distress, burnout, anxiety/depression, low self-esteem, and adverse health behaviours (alcohol, smoking, nutrition). To assess these measures, well-recognised and validated questionnaires (i.e. scales) were used.

Measurement of physical and psychological stressors

Several physical and psychological stressors were explored in the study such as severe injuries (training or competition absence for more than four weeks), surgeries, life events (death of a family member) and (social) support from trainer and team mates. All these aspects were self-reported by the players.

With the information provided by such a study, FIFPro aims to understand mental health problems that might occur during and/or after a professional football career. Subsequently, FIFPro and its member unions can help develop and implement optimal strategies in order to protect and promote the sustainable health of professional footballers.

Media Contact

For more information and media interested in contacting Dr. Vincent Gouttebarge,
please put your request to the FIFPro Communications department.
Raymond Beaard
Tel: +31 23 5546970
Mob: +31 6 23769852
r.beaard@fifpro.org



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