When they take that final break retirement obsessed athletes often have nothing else to fall back on. Newsday looked at life after football. Its survey responses from 1, 425 former NFL players and interviews with more than 100 retirees, spouses, NFL executives, and psychologists found that almost one in five former players reported emotional problems, ranging from postcareer letdown to depression during their first year out of football. Only 16 percent of those who retired in the 1990s reported that they felt more successful after football.
You go through a fog, an emotional depression, says former Redskins and Lions defensive tackle Eric Williams.
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It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve been all-pro or all-world, the problems are the same. I think the whole thing stems from identity. All your life, you’re known for what you do. Since the sixth grade, I was always known as Eric Williams the football player. The accolades, the ego strokes, are incredible when you’re a football player. You don’t pay for dinners. You go to a bar and they say Drink for free all night. You don’t wait in lines. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
From 1980 to 1997, seven former NFL players committed suicide. A common theme in almost every case was a difficult transition from life in the NFL. Five suicides were reported (combined) of retired players from pro basketball, baseball, and hockey.
From a family aspect, retirement is difficult because you have to have some place to focus that anger and energy and hostility, former NFL linebacker Brian Noble has said. When that’s gone, your time is spent with your family. Guess who’s going to catch the brunt of a lot of that?
Since his retirement in 1997, former undisputed heavyweight boxing champion Riddick Bowe has had numerous problems, including domestic disputes with his sister and his wife, a failed attempt to join the Marines, and separation from his wife and five children. At one point he was hospitalized for counseling and therapy for emotional stress.