A survey of retired Australia cricket players has found that one-quarter of them experienced depression and feelings of helplessness after quitting the sport.
The Australian Cricketers’ Association, which conducted the poll, contacted every player who retired or was forced out of cricket at international or state level since 2005.
It found that 39 percent of participants experienced high levels of stress and anxiety for two weeks or more after retirement, while 25 percent experienced depression or feelings of helplessness during the same amount of time and 43 percent felt they had lost their sense of identity after finishing their cricket career.
Australian Cricketers’ Association chief executive Paul Marsh told the Sydney Morning Herald that more had to be done to help players approaching retirement.
“That’s when the reality hits so we’ve got to transition them from one career to the next career,” Marsh said. “A huge part of what we do is trying to get them ready whilst they’re playing cricket. You try and soften that blow by preparing them. Some players don’t see the end coming for various reasons.”
The survey comes at a time of increasing focus on the mental health of top players after England batsman Jonathan Trott was forced to quit the Ashes tour of Australia because of a “stress-related illness.”
Marsh said the survey results are preliminary and only focus on players who came out of the Australian system after 2005 because that was when the association began a US$1 million program to assist retiring or recently retired cricketers.
He said top players often link their identity to sporting success and lack balance in their lives.
“I don’t think there is any definitive research on this, but I think cricket is a game that lends itself to the types of mental health issues that we’ve seen,” Marsh said.
“One reason is the international guys spend so much time away from home and that can be difficult, and there are not many sports that I can think of that your own personal performances are so identifiable and therefore under scrutiny,” he added. “In your football codes you’re part of a team, you can have a good or a bad game, but you can hide behind playing your role for your coach. In cricket, it’s there for everyone to see.”