With the recent suicide deaths of former long-time National Football League player Junior Seau and current Kansas City Chiefs player Jovan Belcher, a new study focuses on the susceptibility to depression of former NFL players.
This recent study, which will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting in California in March, discovered that the effects of playing professional football can pose a significant threat to the player’s overall mental health later in life. This research is suggesting that brain damage caused by injuries accrued during a football career make players more likely to develop depression than the average person.
“In general, NFL players endorsed more symptoms of depression … compared to controls,” the study concludes.
For the study, researchers analyzed data collected from 26 retired NFL players. The study showed that the players that suffered from depression had “impaired white matter integrity” as well as other forms of brain damage. Concussions are generally thought to be the cause of the brain damage, and the head injuries are also the subject of numerous lawsuits filed by former players and their families against the NFL. Recent developments over the past few months have increased the need to look into the links between depression and the NFL.
For example, Belcher killed his girlfriend and mother of his child on Dec. 1, 2012, then headed to the team’s training facility and killed himself by shooting himself in the head. Back in May, Seau died at age 43 after he shot himself. Earlier this month, Seau was diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which is caused by brain injuries. This diagnosis for Seau is not surprising as many NFL players receive the same diagnosis after repeated blows to the head.
NFL player susceptibility may pave the way for many changes to be made within the sport to protect the players, but for those who already suffer from the condition, this may make their likelihood of committing suicide or homicides even greater if they are treated for it with antidepressant medication like Paxil. Current studies have revealed that antidepressants like Paxil are linked to violent and suicidal thoughts and behaviors. This information should be kept in mind for future players suffering from depression.