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Opening up about mental health

Professional footballers play out a precarious career in full view of the general public and media.

So it is perhaps not surprising that they are more likely to suffer mental health problems than the rest of the population, as revealed in a FIFPRO study.

The study found 38% of active professional players in 2015 reported symptoms of depression.

Or, in other words, as many as nine footballers in a 25-person squad could be experiencing symptoms of common mental disorders such as distress, anxiety or depression.

“Athletes are under great pressure, each performance is scrutinized in public, and often we set ourselves goals that are too high”

— by Dario Simic, former AC Milan and Croatia national team player

The study revealed that 95% of the players thought that symptoms of common mental disorders negatively influence football performance, with 65% stating their own career had been affected.

Some 84% said there were not enough support during their football career to properly manage symptoms of common mental disorders

FIFPRO and our affiliated player unions are taking steps to support players and raise awareness about one of the key health issues in the game today.

“Clubs should have medical experts who can work on professional footballers’ mental health, as well as their physical health.”

— by Dr. Vincent Gouttebarge, FIFPRO Chief Medical Officer

FIFPRO Workshop

The study was followed in 2018 by a two-day workshop at FIFPRO headquarters in the Netherlands.

Footballers from Cyprus, Finland, Montenegro and the Netherlands spoke about coping with stressful moments such as a career-ending injury, making crucial mistakes and relocating abroad.

Advice and strategies to support players were discussed by players unions from both football and rugby.

Mental Health WS 1650
Michael Bennett of the English PFA discusses player welfare with other player association representatives.

Michael Bennett, head of player welfare at the English Professional Players Association (PFA), told how it had set up a 24-hour help-line for players that is providing support for hundreds of footballers every year.

Below, watch Dr. Gouttebarge discuss the study in a documentary by German broadcaster Deutsche Welle.