The NFL Needs to Take Care of Its Players and Offer Better Suicide Prevention

Scott Carasik@ScottCarasikContributor IIMay 5, 2012

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 21:  Junior Seau #55 of the New England Patriots reacts during their game against the Arizona Cardinals at Gillette Stadium on December 21, 2008 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. According to reports May 2, 2012, Seau, 43, was found dead in his home in Oceanside, California.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Junior Seau was a great man and NFL player, but he had some issues that were not isolated to just him or just the concussions that led to his suicide. Junior was known as a hard-hitting linebacker, a leader and a great man. However, others here at Bleacher Report have already done an excellent job with the following articles:

Junior Seau's Passing Deprives San Diego of Its Finest Citizen

Junior Seau: NFL Players Offer Condolences to Seau Family

Junior Seau: Twitter Reacts to Tragic Passing of Former Linebacker

Rather, the question is how can we prevent suicide with other NFL players. The NFL doesn't take proper care of the players once they leave the sport they love and the players have many health issues once they leave. 

In doing research on the issue, I've found that the suicide rate of NFL players is six times the national average. Additionally, there are many issues that former players will face, and the NFL should help their retirees:

Denial — One of the greatest challenges players face in transition is the reality that the game is over and life has changed. Keeping the illusion of fame alive is costly.

This is one of the hardest things for players to face. If a player truly wants to keep their fame alive, one of the best thing for them to do is to get associated with a charity or even learn how to act, commentate or coach.

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Drinking & Drugs — Alcohol, illegal drugs, and prescription drugs are often abused by athletes during their career and can become a bigger problem in retirement as players turn to these substances for emotional relief.

LOUISVILLE, KY - MAY 05:  A mint julep is seen during the 138th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 5, 2012 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The most dangerous thing for any of the players in the NFL is substance abuse. While it's not the easiest thing to find help for, there a millions of programs out there to combat substance abuse, ranging  from Narcotics Anonymous to full blown rehabilitation programs.

Divorce — Half of the divorces among NFL players occur in their first year after leaving the game.

Now, the issues here is something that should be taken care of before marriage. The leading cause for divorce is marrying the wrong person or for the wrong reasons in the first place. Unfortunately, these players will not listen to friends or family who will tell them not to go with that person and marry them and this issue will happen either way, despite being an NFL player or not.

Financial Loss and/or Challenges — The average annual NFL player's salary is 25 times greater than that of the average U.S. household income. Athletes used to six- and seven-figure incomes find it difficult to adjust to a new standard of living.

This is something that none of the NFL players should have a single issue with. They make millions upon millions of dollars and need to spend on someone who will help them plan financially for their future. Whether it's a great accountant or financial planner, they need someone who can be relied on in their best interest even if it doesn't get them paid more.

Physical Loss and/or Challenges — 65 percent of NFL players retire with permanent injuries.

The issue here is part of where the Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy or CTE is an issue. While there is no way to completely prevent these injuries as the NFL is a physically demanding and brutal entity, the NFL should at the very least cover all medical care for any player who has made it through one full season in the NFL. 

Lack of Purpose and Significance — More than half of retired athletes feel they've lost their purpose in life. Only a third of retiring NFL players are college graduates.

Lack of purpose is something that everyone feels at some point in their life. However, if they don't have a college degree, the NFL should invest into the players to get a college degree and help them in career after NFL development programs where they can get an internship with a legitimate company in the field they want to pursue.

Depression — The suicide rate among former NFL players is nearly six times the national average.

Anger and Bitterness — When a player leaves the game, anger and bitterness are common. Fans, media, coaches, administration, players union, family, and friends often become the brunt of their frustration.

While these are completely different entities, there is a need to group them together in treatment. The NFL doesn't currently cover any medical expenses for players once they leave the league and that is a real problem.

You don't see the military not having medical covered for their veterans, even if they are only a one deployment veteran, they are still eligible for psychological treatments. Something the NFL needs to invest in is the psychiatrists and psychologists who are willing to help the players once they leave the game.

Loss of Structure — Players used to a rigid schedule often find it difficult to plan their own lives and carry out simple tasks.

Unfortunately, there is nothing to combat the loss of structure outside of having a family member or personal assistant come up with a schedule for the player once they leave the NFL. However, this is not all bad, as humans, we should all be able to grow and change, and retirees can change and grow every day.

Isolation — "I'm no longer part of a team – I'm all alone." Few people understand the challenges players face as they look “in” from the "outside"on what used to be their culture.

Isolation is a self imposed issue for former NFL players. NFL teams should be bringing these former players back into the fold as at least mentors to the players who are currently playing. It could be something helpful for the NFL alumni to be looked at as what they are, the link to the history of the sport and truly exceptional football minds.

The biggest issue right now is that the NFL doesn't pay for programs to help their older players and retirees. If the NFL would help with things like psychotherapy, financial planners and rehabilitation programs, then NFL players would have lower suicide rates because they are having help with the issues with they face in retirement.

Now, keep in mind, this isn't the end all, be all plan of action for the NFL retirees. However this is a suggestion to make sure they end up with a true plan of action to stay active, financially personally profitable and if they do have psychological issues, have the plan of action to help them realize that life is not just worth living but is just as satisfying as strapping on pads and a helmet every Sunday.

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