Any sport is quite com­plex and dan­ger­ous, and we are not just talk­ing about phys­i­cal health prob­lems. We talk about the dif­fi­cul­ties that ath­letes so often face and those who help them cope, using real exam­ples.

Ath­letes get injured, of course, but they also expe­ri­ence burnout, stress, depres­sion, and many oth­er chal­lenges.

Problems with alcohol

Paul Gascoigne

As all Eng­lish media wrote in the late 1990s, Paul Gas­coigne is one of the most tal­ent­ed foot­ball play­ers and also the most famous alco­holic in the world of foot­ball. And here’s why — after a vic­to­ri­ous match for the Eng­land nation­al team, Gas­coigne could almost always be seen in the pub clos­est to the sta­di­um. He sat at the bar wear­ing his nation­al team uni­form and boots dirty from the lawn. This lifestyle led to prob­lems — the ath­lete often missed train­ing, clashed with coach­es and got into drunk­en brawls.

After 1998, the mid­field­er did not stay long in foot­ball clubs — in six years he man­aged to change at least five. They sim­ply didn’t want to take him on to the team, and the clubs in the “base­ment” of the stand­ings with­drew con­tract offers at the last minute. Gas­coigne repeat­ed­ly went to clin­ics to get rid of addic­tion, but could not over­come the addic­tion.


While play­ing for Inter, Adri­ano found him­self in the whirlpool of Milan’s fash­ion scene — at some point, the foot­ball play­er began to be seen more often not at train­ing, but at par­ties in night­clubs. The strik­er left the estab­lish­ment in the morn­ing in an inad­e­quate state, and pub­li­ca­tions not­ed that fame and mon­ey had gone to the athlete’s head.

After fin­ish­ing his career at Inter, Adri­ano admit­ted the rea­sons for this behav­ior and addic­tion to alco­hol. “After my father died, I fell into a depres­sion from which the only way to escape was through drink­ing. I only felt hap­py when I drank, so I drank inces­sant­ly. I drank every­thing I could get my hands on: wine, whiskey, beer. I came to train­ing drunk. I didn’t sleep so as not to be late for train­ing, but I arrived at the base in an inde­cent state“, the foot­baller said in an inter­view with the Cor­riere del­la Sera news­pa­per.

Oleg Romantsev

The leg­endary coach of the Spar­tak foot­ball club Oleg Romant­sev began to notice a fre­quent turn to alco­hol towards the end of his career. In the recent­ly released doc­u­men­tary series “The Time of Spar­tak” on Kinopoisk, atten­tion was also paid to this top­ic. In one of the episodes they even showed a frag­ment of a press con­fer­ence at which Romant­sev appeared in front of jour­nal­ists while intox­i­cat­ed.

The changes in the life of the head coach are asso­ci­at­ed with severe stress, which he tried to relieve with the help of alco­hol. Romant­sev took on a lot as the leader of the Moscow team — at some point he lost con­trol, and not every­thing began to work out. Fail­ures unset­tled the man, which made him decide to take such mea­sures.


Eduardo da Silva

In Feb­ru­ary 2008, Arse­nal strik­er Eduar­do da Sil­va was seri­ous­ly injured. Dur­ing the game against Birm­ing­ham, Mar­tin Tay­lor flew into him. After the col­li­sion, da Sil­va remained lying on the lawn, but at that time none of the coach­ing staff, team­mates and fans at the sta­di­um under­stood what exact­ly hap­pened.

The Arse­nal strik­er suf­fered an open frac­ture of his leg and an open dis­lo­ca­tion of his left ankle. This moment was so dif­fi­cult and scary that dur­ing the live broad­cast they didn’t even show a replay, so as not to shock the audi­ence.

Da Sil­va then had numer­ous surg­eries and months of recov­ery. Arse­nal phys­io­ther­a­pists and attend­ing physi­cians doubt­ed that the foot­ball play­er would ever be able to return to his usu­al lev­el of play. “In case of such an injury, there is a risk of los­ing a leg. An ordi­nary per­son will recov­er from such an injury for about six months, Eduar­do will need at least nine,” Tim Allardyce, a phys­io­ther­a­pist at the Lon­don club, said at the time.

How­ev­er, the ath­lete reap­peared on the field just a year after the injury — in 2009, in the 1/16 finals of the FA Cup, he appeared in the start­ing line­up and scored a dou­ble against Cardiff City. Sub­se­quent­ly, da Sil­va con­tin­ued the recov­ery process and was able to regain his pre­vi­ous form.

Richard Zednik

The sit­u­a­tion with hock­ey play­er Richard Zed­nik is one of the most ter­ri­ble in the his­to­ry of world sports. In 2008, dur­ing a match between the Flori­da Pan­thers and the Buf­fa­lo Sabers, Zed­nik’s team­mate Olli Joki­nen lost his bal­ance after col­lid­ing with an oppo­nent and cut the Flori­da for­ward’s carotid artery with his skate. The hock­ey play­er was unable to dodge the blade in time — sec­onds lat­er the entire ice was cov­ered in blood.

As Zed­nik him­self recalls, after the inci­dent he some­how man­aged to close the cut with a leg­gings and get to the sub­sti­tutes’ bench. In the lock­er room he was already uncon­scious — the ath­lete had lost about two liters of blood. Doc­tors man­aged to stop it and sew up the carotid artery. Such an injury does not require long-term recov­ery, so after a few months Zed­nik returned to the ice and con­tin­ued to play hock­ey.

Elena Berezhnaya

In 1996, dur­ing train­ing, fig­ure skater Ele­na Berezh­naya was prac­tic­ing a dif­fi­cult ele­ment and received a ter­ri­ble injury. Her part­ner Oleg Shlyakhov acci­den­tal­ly hit the girl on the head with a skate — the blow was so strong that frag­ments of the tem­po­ral bone dam­aged the out­er shell of the brain. Due to the injury, the right side of the skater’s body was par­tial­ly par­a­lyzed, and doc­tors could not give any guar­an­tees for the athlete’s full recov­ery.

After two com­plex brain surg­eries, Berezh­naya learned to talk, read and walk again. She was able to return to the ice and did so with a new part­ner, Anton Sikharulidze. Already in 1998, the cou­ple took sil­ver at the Olympics in Nagano, and after that they had suc­cess­ful per­for­mances at the Euro­pean Cham­pi­onships and the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City.

Depression and stress

Oleg Romantsev

By the 2000s, Spar­tak had changed irrev­o­ca­bly: the “gold­en” years of crush­ing vic­to­ries over rivals had passed, for­wards left the team, and the ide­ol­o­gy of the Moscow club was chang­ing due to count­less new­com­ers and for­eign play­ers from oth­er coun­tries. In the doc­u­men­tary series “The Time of Spar­tak”, they specif­i­cal­ly focused on this, since all this had a strong impact on the head coach Oleg Romant­sev.

He led Spar­tak for a long time, and his body was repeat­ed­ly under severe stress. There­fore, Romant­sev “crum­bled” and at some point could no longer approach his respon­si­bil­i­ties with the same respon­si­bil­i­ty. The ner­vous sys­tem was destroyed not only by intense expe­ri­ences, but also by insom­nia and two packs of cig­a­rettes — that’s how much the coach smoked per day.

Many Spar­tak employ­ees and friends con­tin­ued to sup­port Romant­sev. One of them was the sec­ond coach of the “red-whites” Alexan­der Tarkhanov — he tried to be clos­er to the head coach. “The Time of Spar­tak” also shows a strik­ing episode in which Romant­sev asks Tarkhanov to sit next to him on the trainer’s bench. This was pro­hib­it­ed by the rules, because at that time Alexan­der had already left the team head­quar­ters, so they placed a chair near­by and so that Romant­sev could see him.

Michael Phelps

In 2021, the most dec­o­rat­ed Olympian, Michael Phelps, revealed that he suf­fered from “post-Olympic” depres­sion. After each suc­cess­ful swim, Phelps took a long time to come to his sens­es — he could not return to train­ing, saw no point in com­pet­ing and doubt­ed his skills and future vic­to­ries.

This went on for ten years — the swim­mer became aware of the prob­lem only after 2014. Then he turned to a psy­chother­a­pist and learned more about what he was faced with. “I learned why I work, how I work, why I am the way I am. I had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to dive into some things that I had sup­pressed inside,” Phelps said in 2021.

Clark Carlisle

Clark Carlisle is known as one of the bright­est foot­ball play­ers in the Eng­lish cham­pi­onship. The ath­lete played more than 500 match­es, became pres­i­dent of the Pro­fes­sion­al Play­ers Asso­ci­a­tion and con­stant­ly improved his ball han­dling tech­nique on the field. Now he is also known as a pub­lic fig­ure: he tries to raise many impor­tant top­ics in sports — racism, social inequal­i­ty, depres­sion. The lat­ter also affect­ed him.

While play­ing for Queens Park Rangers, Carlisle threw him­self under a truck. As the ath­lete him­self explained his actions then, “he no longer had the mean­ing of life.” Short­ly before this, the foot­ball play­er lost a large con­tract with a tele­vi­sion chan­nel, and spent all the mon­ey on a casi­no. Carlisle sur­vived the acci­dent with only a bro­ken rib and a shat­tered knee. Thanks to the sup­port of the team, he con­tin­ued to play and con­tin­ued to fight depres­sion.


David Beckham

Dur­ing the deci­sive game at the 1998 World Cup in the 1/8 finals, Eng­land play­er David Beck­ham unsuc­cess­ful­ly col­lid­ed with an Argenti­na play­er and kicked him. For this, the ath­lete was shown a red card and removed from the field. Eng­land did not win that match — Argenti­na turned out to be more suc­cess­ful in the penal­ty shootout.

The next day, all Eng­lish fans were not only depressed due to the loss of their favorite team, but also made Beck­ham their main ene­my. Jour­nal­ists por­trayed the foot­ball play­er in a bad light, and fans booed him in sta­di­ums and did not allow him pas­sage on the city streets.

How­ev­er, Beck­ham man­aged to cope with the attacks of the fans — thanks to the head coach of Man­ches­ter Unit­ed Sir Alex Fer­gu­son and his team­mates. In the new sea­son of the Eng­lish Cham­pi­onship, he showed a bril­liant per­for­mance on the field, scor­ing beau­ti­ful goals for the Red Dev­ils against their oppo­nents. The fans’ hatred instant­ly dis­ap­peared — they sup­port­ed Beck­ham, and he gave them vic­to­ry in the FA Cup, the Eng­lish Pre­mier League and the Cham­pi­ons League.

Thier­ry Hen­ry

Already a for­mer play­er of Lon­don’s Arse­nal and Barcelona, ​​he was always con­sid­ered a role mod­el and a true gen­tle­man. How­ev­er, in 2009, the France strik­er became the most hat­ed play­er in the entire foot­ball world dur­ing a play-off match for the 2010 World Cup against Ire­land. In extra time, he made an assist with his hand, which allowed the French team to advance to the World Cup.

Ire­land fans were furi­ous at Hen­ry’s “hand of God” — they shout­ed abuse, made death threats and stood watch for him out­side the train­ing ground. Such a reac­tion from Irish fans left its mark on the footballer’s career. After a while, Hen­ri admit­ted to play­ing with his hand, apol­o­gized to his oppo­nents and even offered to replay the match.

At the same time, the French foot­ball play­er was sup­port­ed by many — French Pres­i­dent Nico­las Sarkozy, Irish Prime Min­is­ter Bri­an Cow­an, one of the lead­ers of the French nation­al team Damien Duff and many oth­ers. They believed that there was noth­ing seri­ous about the vio­la­tion, since all the blame lay sole­ly with the ref­er­ee, who did not notice the hand­ball and did not blow the whis­tle.

Luis Suarez

Luis Suarez is undoubt­ed­ly con­sid­ered one of the most “hat­ed” foot­ball play­ers among both fans and play­ers. A brute, a malin­ger­er and a can­ni­bal — that’s all about the Uruguayan strik­er. Suarez has repeat­ed­ly demon­strat­ed inap­pro­pri­ate behav­ior on the field. Due to an excess of emo­tions, he could trip up his oppo­nent, bite him on the neck, quar­rel with the ref­er­ee and speak unflat­ter­ing­ly about nation­al­i­ties.

Many dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tions, red cards and a bad char­ac­ter did not par­tic­u­lar­ly affect Suarez’s career. The fans booed him repeat­ed­ly, and the play­ers did not spare him dur­ing the tack­les. How­ev­er, the strik­er con­tin­ues to play — this is exact­ly how he sees foot­ball: rough and tough. Despite all his antics, Suarez is con­sid­ered the most effec­tive play­er.

Who helps athletes cope with burnout, stress, injuries and other problems

If a coach is respon­si­ble for the phys­i­cal devel­op­ment of ath­letes, then a sports psy­chol­o­gist works with var­i­ous men­tal prob­lems. It helps to cope with emo­tions and stress, teach­es you to con­trol emo­tions, con­cen­trate, accept defeat and men­tal­ly recov­er from seri­ous injuries.

The coach­es and team also pro­vide great sup­port to the ath­letes. There are many sto­ries in the his­to­ry of world sports when ath­letes returned to games and regained their for­mer form thanks to their com­rades. Among them are foot­ball play­er David Beck­ham, gym­nast Simone Biles, swim­mer Michael Phelps, bas­ket­ball play­er DeMar DeRozan and many oth­ers.

When it comes to injuries, doc­tors and phys­i­cal ther­a­pists are the pri­ma­ry care providers for ath­letes. With their help, they can recov­er and return to train­ing in a fair­ly short time. For this pur­pose, spe­cial reha­bil­i­ta­tion pro­grams are being devel­oped that help restore mus­cle tone to nor­mal and devel­op limbs after injuries.

Also, dur­ing train­ing, they are giv­en indi­vid­ual exer­cis­es to make it eas­i­er to return to their usu­al loads and phys­i­cal fit­ness.