“I Coulda Been a Contender”

When an athlete has a career-ending injury, a good deal of emotional and psychological distress can result. Years and even decades later, the athlete imagines what titles they could have won, if only they hadn’t gotten hurt. If only the doctors had just cleared them to play. If only… So what can a competitive athlete do to feel on top of the world again? We’ve already established that so much of an athlete’s identity is wrapped up in their career. If they are no longer an athlete, then what are they? All of the adrenaline and excitement that came with training and competing comes to an abrupt end. How can that be replaced or replicated? So many aspects of their lives had been put on hold: attending to their families and other important relationships, developing alternate career opportunities or job skills; etc. How are they supposed to immediately take on the responsibilities they were exempt from as they focused on training? After a career-ending injury, we have someone who’s identity and confidence has been stripped, who went from a level of intense sensations and gratification to none, and who suddenly has a great deal of unexpected stress. All of this, without their usual way of coping (training and competing) being available to them. This can be a recipe for disaster, should the athlete turn to gambling as a means of coping, of reaching previously enjoyed levels of excitement, of feeling like they’re still important. It isn’t easy, but all athletic careers come to an end. Whether this be expected and over time, or swiftly with a career-ending injury, it is important for the athlete to be cautious about engaging in gambling, substance use, or other potentially risky behaviors at this time. Adding gambling problems onto an already challenging period is just not worth the risk.

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