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On Tuesday, October 6, FIFPro will release a seminal exploration of mental health disorders in professional footballers. Conducted by FIFPro’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Vincent Gouttebarge (Assistant Professor at the Academic Medical Center of Amsterdam), and Professor Gino Kerkhoffs from the Academic Medical Centre of Amsterdam, this research surveyed over 800 current and former players from 11 FIFPro member countries on 3 continents. It is an immediate follow-up to Dr. Gouttebarge’s 2014 mental health research.

The information gained from this research will seek to further inform all stakeholders within football about the widespread nature of these medical problems and lead a debate around the supportive measures which are necessary for those suffering.

As workers, footballers are not immune to these occurrences and should have obligatory support measures to fall back upon while dealing with unfortunate circumstances.

“We hope that with this study comes increased awareness and commitment from all within football to put supportive measures,” says Dr. Gouttebarge.

“FIFPro is a global standard bearer in football on the importance of this cause. We know that much more needs to be done to protect and support players. The stigma around mental illness must be removed so players feel more comfortable coming forward. They must know they are not alone.”

Objectives

Building on previous research conducted by FIFPro and Dr. Gouttebarge, this study aims to better understand findings and establish correlations between results. It seeks to determine the prevalence of symptoms of common mental disorders among current and former professional footballers while establishing how these symptoms associate with the presence of potential stressors in a player’s life.

Outline of the FIFPro study

Eleven national unions collaborated on this research; they include unions from, Belgium (SPORTA), Chile (SIFUP), Finland (JPY), France (UNFP), Japan (JPFA), Norway (NISO), Paraguay (FAP), Peru (SAFAP), Spain (AFE), Sweden (SFS) and Switzerland (SAFP).

Measurement of mental health disorders

In this research, the following symptoms related to mental disorders were studied: distress, anxiety/depression, sleeping disturbance, and adverse health behaviours (alcohol, smoking, nutrition). These measures were assessed through recognised and validated scales such as the Distress Screener, the 12-item General Health Questionnaire and the AUDIT-C.

Measurement of physical and psychological stressors

Several physical and psychological stressors were detailed within the study including severe injuries (training or competition absence for more than four weeks), surgeries, life events (death of a family member, divorce, etc.) and career dissatisfaction. Each of these aspects was self-reported by players through various measurement tools.

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