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27 March 2012 | PR 12/59

Towards a better understanding of suicide in sport


Image: © Kwest - Fotolia.com

A Loughborough academic is hoping to understand the prevalence of suicide in sport and the role sports medicine professionals can play in supporting athletes with mental health problems.

The reported suicide of former Welsh football international Gary Speed and a trio of Canadian ice hockey players last year are just four of a number of cases recorded within world sport in the last 12 months alone.

In an article published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, Dr Dominic Malcolm of the University’s School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences hopes to develop a case for sports medics to be trained in identifying depression and helping athletes seek help before it’s too late.

Dr Malcolm explains:

“The recent spate of suicides within sport has brought this worrying trend to light, but if you look at wider research on the topic it’s little surprise the problem exists; sport shares many of the factors that are common precursors to suicide such as demotion, relocation, job loss and retirement and the profession is dominated by men, who are four times as likely as women to commit suicide.
“There is currently little research in this area, but I believe medicine professionals working in sport have an important role to play in identifying the warning signs and supporting players to manage their mental health.”

Earlier this year, former England cricket captain Freddie Flintoff talked out about his battle with mental health during his playing career and urged for the condition to be taken more seriously.

A 2001 study of the sport showed suicide rate among English test cricketers is almost double that of the UK’s male population.

The biography of Bundesliga goalkeeper Robert Enke, who killed himself in 2009, reported how the team doctor falsified his medical records at the onset of his depression to keep his condition confidential.

“The culture of practicing medicine within sport is unique and most intervention is about performance rather than the long-term health of the individual,” explains Dr Malcolm. “There is a conflict of interest for staff who are employed by the club rather than the player, so may be obliged to reveal confidential information to team management.

“The aim of my research is to assess the degree to which athletes experience mental health problems, understand the training needs of sports medicine personnel so those problems are identified early and appropriately treated, and to encourage a better balance between performance enhancement and duty of care to athletes’ health.”


For all media enquiries contact:

Amanda Overend
PR Officer
Loughborough University
T: 01509 223491
E: A.J.Overend@lboro.ac.uk 

Notes for editors:

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It was awarded the coveted Sunday Times University of the Year 2008-09 title, and is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in national newspaper league tables. In the 2011 National Student Survey, Loughborough was voted one of the top universities in the UK, and has topped the Times Higher Education league for the UK’s Best Student Experience every year since the poll's inception in 2006. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, the University has been awarded six Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

Loughborough is also the UK’s premier university for sport. It has perhaps the best integrated sports development environment in the world and is home to some of the country’s leading coaches, sports scientists and support staff. It also has the country’s largest concentration of world-class training facilities across a wide range of sports.

It is a member of the 1994 Group of 19 leading research-intensive universities. The Group was established in 1994 to promote excellence in university research and teaching. Each member undertakes diverse and high-quality research, while ensuring excellent levels of teaching and student experience.

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This page was last updated on Tuesday March 27, 2012 15:14