AUTHOR: Noel Murphy
When I was a child I once met Gary Speed. Gary, for those who don’t know, was a soccer player for Wales and Leeds United in the English Premiership. As a child I adored Speed. He was a hero of mine and meeting him in the flesh was one of the greatest experiences of my life. He seemed so jovial and nice and introduced me to all the other members of the squad. Little was I to know that in a few years he would commit suicide.
Suicide in sport is not a new phenomenon. Its been happening for quite some time. Among the sports people we have lost down through the years are such names as golfer Michael Christie, skier Christine Smith, jockey Herbert Jones, and weightlifter Guy Carlton.
So, is there a reason for all these sporting tragedies?
Well, according to J. John Mann M.D. of the Columbia University and New York State Psychiatric Institute This is because sports people have a very high level of the protein called “tau” Which causes CTE. CTE is a progressive neurodegenerative disease caused by repetitive trauma to the brain which has been linked to dementia and depression
“It is hypothesized that this abnormal protein, which preferentially accumulates in outer layers of the brain, impairs and eventually kills brain cells. Early on, CTE causes emotional instability, poor concentration, word-finding difficulties, depression, suicidal thoughts and problems with impulse control.” He says.
It is also believed that repetitive head injuries can lead to diseases such as Parkinson’s. This is noticeable in Ice Hockey and Boxing circles most notably Mohammad Ali.
There is also, like in the case of Gary Speed other underlying psychiatric problems that can be at the root cause.
Many experts believe that its the sportsperson unyielding struggle for perfection and the inevitable comedown of not achieving this that makes a sportsperson so depressed that they take their own lives. This is purely conjecture but it does make a lot of sense especially when you look at Speed.
Another reason is a much more sinister one. Performance enhancing drugs may be the cause of many of these deaths. According to the New Science Journal, the “intake of such substances can lead to major mood swings and suicidal tendencies, especially in a young developing brain”
Whatever the reason, it is always sad to see a young person with great talent taken needlessly in their prime.