Injured athletes and the risk of suicide

J Athl Train. 1994 Dec;29(4):337-41.


Research on the emotional responses of athletes to injury shows significant depression that may be profound and may last a month or more, paralleling the athlete's perceived recovery. Injured athletes cared for by athletic trainers are often between the ages of 15 to 24, the high-risk age group for suicide, which is currently a leading cause of death for young Americans. The purposes of this paper are to discuss postinjury depression, the incidence and risk factors of suicide, athletic injury as a psychosocial risk factor, the features common to suicide attempts in case studies of five injured athletes, and the motivation of athletes for sport participation. We also suggest ways in which athletic trainers can assess injured athletes for depression and risk of suicide. The five injured athletes who attempted suicide shared several common factors. All had experienced 1) considerable success before sustaining injury; 2) a serious injury requiring surgery; 3) a long, arduous rehabilitation with restriction from their preferred sport; 4) a lack of preinjury competence on return to sport; and 5) being replaced in their positions by teammates. Also, all were in the highrisk age group for suicide. As a primary care provider, the certified athletic trainer is in an ideal position to detect serious postinjury depression and to determine whether the injured athlete is at risk for suicide.