It’s been reasonably well documented that, almost regardless of the sport, a significant number of modern athletes experience major struggles in trying to cope with the transition to ‘normal life’ when their professional careers come to an end.
Whether it be ex-fast bowlers with brittle spines, ex-motorcyclists with forever-bent femurs, ex-footballers with mushed up brains, ex-swimmers who never had a proper childhood, or simply ex-superstars with ‘god complexes’ who’ve spent their entire lives wrapped in a cocoon where they could do no wrong, it can lead to all kinds of physical, social and psychological problems – things which often plague them for the rest of their lives.
This got me thinking. Given so many people are actually drawn to cycling in the first place because of its ease of participation (even at older ages) and known mental health benefits, could it be possible that depression and anxiety rates are lower for ex-cyclists than perhaps those from other professional sports?
Clearly there are many cases of elite cyclists who do suffer from such conditions, the highest profile of which is no doubt Marco Pantani. But I wonder, is the rate any different compared to, say, footballers, boxers and baseballers for whom retirement almost certainly spells the end of their direct physical participation in their chosen sport? If anyone knows of studies into this type of thing, please share. Be fascinating to delve into further as I’m sure there’s plenty of uncover and explore.
In the mean time, here are a couple of indirectly connected stories well worth a read. The first is about the challenges faced by retired athletes in general, while the second looks into cycling and depression.