Posts Tagged ‘mental-health’

Final instalment of our 3 part series of mental health issues in sport.

Part 1 we talked about Depression and Gambling 

Part 2 we talked about Anxiety and Player Burnout 

Injury :

Injury can be a very tricky time for any Player or Athlete as it can take away their sense of being, motivation and overall enjoyment in life and the same can be said for any role within sport. When a person in any walk of life loses or can`t do their daily career it can be a very hard mental battle as they basically can lose who they sight of who they are.

Clarke Carlisle who is chairman of the Professional Footballers Association and was once  a player with QPR and Leeds amongst other clubs explains that “People have this perception of elite athletes and sports people that they are these infallible beings. But although they may have a strength or a talent in a particular area, they are no more immune to mental health issues as they are to any other illness” . He was speaking about English Cricketer Jonathan Trott who has just recently been allowed to leave the English Cricket Camp in Australia to return home to his family due to stress and injury related reasons.

“There are common triggers in sport and injury is one of them. In 2001 I needed reconstructive knee surgery. I was told I might never play again and may have to walk with a stick. That led me to try to commit suicide” says Carlisle speaking to the

Jonathan Trott was allowed to leave the English Cricked Camp due to Stress related injury - Picture by

Jonathan Trott was allowed to leave the English Cricked Camp due to Stress related injury – Picture by

Wayne Rooney has indicated that being injured is one of the most frustrating things that can every happen to a Player or athlete. He said in his Book “My decade in the primer league – When I’m out injured I know I can’t train or help the lads prepare for the next match so, typically, I get grumpy, a bit like someone would when they have to give up smoking or coffee, I’d imagine”

I’m a fidgety patient. I get snappy. I go quiet. I don’t get fed up with the treatment or the physios and club doctors, I just want to get out there and play in the practice games like everyone else. The worst thing is that the rehab process messes around with my head. I feel left out at the club. I miss the banter and the crack in the dressing-room. As I’m not fit enough to play, I don’t even get to spend the night in the team hotel with the rest of the lads before the next game. I have to stay at home, then drive into the training ground the following morning for some more boring recovery work.

        “Wayne Rooney’s horrific leg gash, sustained against Fulham in August”

Players become a spare part when they’re seriously injured. They become forgotten men around the club.

When I’m injured I get wound up and nervy watching games. It’s like being a fan all over again, probably more nerve-wracking than actually playing. It’s so frustrating. I can’t influence the game at all. I’m helpless.

There’s nothing I can do to change the result and help my mates win.

I try to keep a happy face on when I’m around the other lads afterwards, but it’s hard.

The psychology battle during injury is key to getting through some hard and lonely spells during injury - Picture of Tommy Bowe after being injuried during the Lions Tour

The psychology battle during injury is key to getting through some hard and lonely spells during injury – Picture of Tommy Bowe after being injuried during the Lions Tour

Former Dublin football captain Paul Griffin who promotes positive mental health by discussing the role that mind management can have in enhancing performance and overcoming adversity, speaks about the important role positive thinking played as he suffered set backs in his playing career with serious injuries over a couple of seasons.

Paul’s Top Tips to stay positive through injury  via his work with

  • Try to always look ahead and plan a path forward through the process. Use achievable goals and small targets to help break this down and take it step by step.
  • Look at the other opportunities that are open to you and other areas you can give more time to. Keep thinking of what you can do tomorrow and see it as an advantage.
  • Use the supports that are all around you and in particular family and friends to help take your mind off things.

Former Dublin Captain Paul Griffin had numerous set backs with injury - Picture by

Former Dublin Captain Paul Griffin had numerous set backs with injury – Picture by

  • Try not to dwell on the past and what if’s. The past can’t be changed so you need to look ahead and to the chances that the future can provide for you.
  • In a sporting context remember your team mates. You still need to be there for them. It might not be the same role but if you can still offer something to help your team be a success give them that support.
  • Keep your language and thoughts positive as these affect your outlook and energy.Enjoy the challenge of it all and the test it provides for you. Overcoming challenges successfully can help to develop your character and strengthen your resolve.


According to new stats released by Xpro,the charity which was set up to help Ex-footballers from England and Ireland shows a crisis of mental health among footballers and especially Ex-footballers  who can suffer from alcohol dependency or suicidal thoughts when adjusting to life after the game

By some estimates as many as three in five former players will be declared bankrupted and to often blighted by bad financial advice. At least 150 ex-professionals  are currently in prison and more than 700 a year end up being pitched out of the sport in their 20`s after failing to win a new contract.

An example of the is Ex-Arsenal left back Kenny Sansom who recently just admitted sleeping on a park bench. The 54 year old who was capped 86 times by England and £1 million player in the 80`s when such a fee was huge said he was homeless and battling alcoholism until the FA stepped in and helped him out.

Ex-Arsenal player Kenny Sansom says “Having to much time on your side can be a bad thing for a Footballer who retires”

It is said sports stars die twice, the first time at retirement. If you are no longer a sporting superstar, then who are you?

A report by Peter Crutchley from  BBC Sport  indicates that “Someone who knows this struggle better than most is boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard. He vividly recalls the feeling he experienced at the moment of victory and how he found its allure too enticing to resist”

Sugar Ray Leonard said that “Nothing could satisfy me outside the ring,” he went on to say “There is nothing in life that can compare to becoming a world champion, having your hand raised in that moment of glory, with thousands, millions of people cheering you on.”

Leonard reflected on how his inability to separate the boxer from the man became all-consuming, forcing him to the depths of depression and leading him to make repeated comebacks.

“When I came back I felt safer in the ring. I could defeat those demons that possessed me outside the ring,” he recalls. “It was such a release when I trained for a fight because all of a sudden I’m totally clean, whether it was from cocaine, or alcohol, or depression. It gave me a sense of calm.”

Sugar Ray Leonard - Boxing

Sugar Ray Leonard talks to BBC Sport Radio about his “Battle with Retirement”

According to Bill Cole, a world-renowned peak performance coach based in California who has worked across dozens of different sports and seen many athletes struggle to come to terms with their retirement there are many factors that one must have and go through.

Sense Of Loss

Their is no meaning to their daily lives from one day to the next after living such a structured life where every minuted was accounted for.

Biological Factors 

“Athletes had regular doses of serotonin daily for many years, and suddenly, that has decreased or stopped outright. That is a huge upset to the chemistry of the body,” he says. “Even some retired athletes who continue to exercise fail to get the endorphin highs since they no longer compete.”

Tunnel Vision

Leading sportsmen and women have lived a regimented training routine for years, often since childhood.

Cole says an athlete’s “tunnel vision and regimented life” is part of the reason why top-level sportsmen and women struggle more with retirement than those in other walks of life.

Grieving Process

The factors behind an athlete’s retirement can be crucial as the fact that many are forced to end their careers for negative reasons, such as injury, diminution of ability and de-selection, adds to this feeling of loss.


Sports psychologist Dr Victor Thompson recognises the challenges of retirement: “Elite athletes such as Premier League footballers relish testing themselves by competing in front of thousands of people, either willing them to succeed or fail. This is the type of challenge and buzz that you don’t generally get in everyday life.”

Having plans in place for their retirement, along with having a strong support group around them, are important components for helping athletes make the transition.

Transion project by the Victorian institue of sport Australia  

Life after sport can be a time of great challenge for many athletes. Post the Beijing Olympics a number of Victorian Institute of Sport athletes with significant sporting experience decided to retire from their sport. The project  was aimed to glean the experience and wisdom from athletes who competed at the highest levels along with learning about their life management skills. The project recorded the interviews and stories of 5 athletes to share with the broader athlete cohort. Athletse included are Grant Hackett, Catherine Arlove, Don Elgin, Travis Brooks, and Rachel Imison.

The following Interview is from Catherine Arlove who is an Australian judoka who has also represented Australia in wrestling and competed at a national level in cycling. Arlove has won ten Gold medals at the Australian National Judo Championships

She competed in judo at the 2000, 2004 and 2008 Olympics.

This video of Catherine discusses the experience of transition from the athletes sporting life to the next phase. Initial thinking about retirement, accepting the decision, timing of the decision, associated feelings, thoughts and concerns; strategies employed, advice sought along with how athletes are filling the void left by their retirement from sport.

Thanks to John O`Neill of for the guest blog.

John can be contacted at regarding any matters about this blog if you need any advice or help regarding issues of Depression, Anxiety, Burnout, Injury, Gambling our Retirement in sport please get in touch and I will do my very best to get back to you as quickly as possible with productive information. I just really hope you enjoy the aspects and reasons behind such a site.

You can also send us an email if you wish to discuss anything.

pfp fb 2

Getting to the “Core”

Core training has been a “buzz word” for some time- pilates was massive in the 90’s and early noughties , classes have sprung up in various gyms dedicated completely to “core” workouts, yet, there is still so much misunderstanding in the industry and among the general public.

Given the calibre of coaches that view this page, no doubt I am preaching to the choir. Several of you may well be more knowledgeable than me in the field strength and conditioning. However, we all bring our own unique experience to the table, and this rant is from my experience of what information is lacking in many coaches (and athletes), still, to this day.

As instructors and/or athletes, it is vital that we have a clear understanding of what core training is, in sport preparation, or just exercising for health. To many coaches, cranking out a few hundred reps of crunches or sit-ups is core training. And that’s it! However, if we are to truly prevent injury and elicit peak performance from ourselves, our athletes or students, then we must adopt a more scientific approach. So what is core training? Well, I believe everything we do in the gym, park, etc… can be core training. If we go back a few hundred years, there were no such things as specific core exercises, crunch machines, etc… The work that was done every day provided all the spine stability and trunk power necessary. Unfortunately, as we have progressed as a society, we have taken so much essential stuff out of our lives that we have needed to put replacements in, e.g. processed foods necessitate vitamin supplements. Let’s examine what we refer to by “The Core”:

Generally speaking, when we refer to the “core” we are referring to the group of muscles between the hips and shoulders, responsible for stabilising the spine and transmitting force from one end of the body to the other. The concept of stability is a key one, as is evidenced by the high incidence of back pain amongst the human population. The core muscles can be grouped according to function – tonic or phasic (also known as local or global).

Tonic muscles are involved in posture. They “brace” the body, i.e. stabilise the spine, and redistribute force that otherwise could be damaging, (that is, when they work properly.) The importance of this function cannot be underestimated. Consider shooting a cannon from dry land versus shooting one from a boat. The kick from the cannon on land is controlled much better as the force is absorbed by solid ground, as opposed to shooting one from a moving, less stable boat.

Phasic muscles are involved in the transmission of force from the upper body to the lower, and vice versa. The function is analogous to the transmission of a car. If the transmission is faulty, then even though there is power from the engine, the wheels may not be turning. These muscles are also involved in conducting the various movements possible by the hips, trunk and shoulders.

Any sport that requires power output is dependent on the athlete having enough core stability to transmit the force from the legs to the upper body. Take a boxer for example: the final power in a punch is largely dependent on how much force can be transmitted from the feet upward. If the boxer has a sloppy “core” then much of the potential power in the punch is lost.

Gray Cook (Functional Movement Systems) refers to the “soft core” and the “hard core” when discussing the tonic and phasic muscles. He explains that the “soft core” is only switched on to about 20% intensity, but is subconscious and stabilises the spine before the conscious thought of movement even occurs.

Let’s examine the layout:


The core can be considered a box or cylindrical area that is surrounded on all sides by the core muscles. In the front we have the rectus abdominus, transversus abdominus. At the back we have the erector spinae and multifidi. The internal and external obliques are at the sides. The diaphragm is above, and the pelvic floor at the base.

“Core training improves performance because “everything in your body is connected to everything else.” Any chain is only as strong as its weakest link – unfortunately, for many people, it happens to be certain core muscles. Proper core stability allows an athlete to accelerate, decelerate, change directions and quickly adjust to spontaneous loading changes. One thing is certain – core stability is essential regardless of your goals. Injury risk is decreased as a result of the stability created around the lumbar spine during extreme effort, as well as the resultant redistribution of stresses on the body.

Common Misconceptions

Just doing Crunches/Sit-ups at end of workout:

For many an athlete, core training is limited to some abdominal work at the end of the workout. This is at best holding oneself back and at worst creating an injury-risk situation. As coaches, we must constantly ask ourselves where our clients are coming from…. the car?… from work where he/she spent eight hours hunched over a computer…… school? We spend much of our lives in flexion, therefore more spinal flexion may not exactly be what is needed, but extension is often essential. or a balanced core training regime, it is necessary to ensure that the entire area is developed in a functional capacity. Also, just doing crunches or sit-ups serves to isolate the rectus abdominus. As the core muscles rarely work in isolation, it seems inadvisable to train muscles is isolation alone. Similarly it is not prudent to train e.g. two different muscles in isolation and then expect them to work together in a “real-world” situation.

“No joint or body part works in isolation. There is a constant cause effect relationship in movement between force production and force reduction. The kinetic chain is characterised by deceleration at one joint and acceleration at the next joint in the chain. Therefore it is important to train movements not muscles.” Gambetta & Gray

Abdominal hollowing:

Abdominal hollowing or drawing the navel towards the spine may not be very useful in performing extremely intense, exertive sporting movements. If you watch Olympic weightlifters – before a big lift they don’t draw in the navel and hollow the abdominal cavity. Instead they “brace.” Consider again the diagram of the core. When taking a deep breath the diaphragm moves downward. This increases pressure in the intra-abdominal cavity, as the downward pressure is resisted by the pelvic floor musculature. As the abdomen is tensed or “braced”, the pressure is pushed back into the spine providing a great amount of support for the spine.


Training in only one plane

Many core exercises, e.g. crunches, glute bridges, reverse crunches work only in the sagittal plane (forward/backward). However we live, perform, compete in a three dimensional world. Therefore, our training if is to be optimal, must also demonstrate three-dimensional properties. The other two planes are frontal (coronal) and transverse.


Core training should encompass exercises that involve truck flexion, extension, lateral flexion and rotation.

Balancing The Load.

One of the best ways to improve core stability is to introduce “offset loading” into a programme. This involves carrying a greater load in one arm than the other. For example, an athlete doing lunges while carrying 10Kg in one hand and 4kg in the other is demonstrating an offset of 6Kg. To avoid losing lateral balance, the obliques and QL’s experience greater activation to keep the trunk upright. Try doing a dumbbell bench press with only one dumbbell at a time, to see the core activation you experience to avoid rolling off the bench.

Thanks for the guest blog from Shane Fitzgibbon.

Check out Shanes’ website, he also has a great training book which we use a lot here. profile pic