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Mental State of College Athletes Post-Graduation


The Clarendon Commission is credited for the recommendation of introducing games and sports in public schools both at an intermediary level and higher education. Games and sports were identified as a primary way to develop morality discipline and improve the mental health of students. Against this backdrop, the research question is what is the mental health condition of college athletes after graduation is? Generally, exercises among students cause the body to release endorphins and reduce stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. Against this backdrop, qualitative research was carried out using peer-reviewed sources from google scholar and qualitative literature limited in the scope of mental health in sports and games. These resources are important in conducting a qualitative research analysis while depending on scholarly journal articles and literature reviews. Using the scholarly articles from the mental health scope is important as they are written by scholars who have studied the sporting and games field, and they have been reviewed by other people with similar experiences in mental health. Therefore, most college students, after graduating, are susceptible to stress, anxiety, and depression due to reduced physical games and sports. Therefore, it is significant to show how the mental health of post-graduate college students is susceptible to depression, anxiety, and stress.

Most collegiate-students athletes experience high levels of stress that culminate in depression and anxiety after they graduate. Most of these athletes are highly susceptible to developing psychological and mental health disorders in the long run. The susceptibility to mental disorders is due to particular environmental and social elements that may expose them to unique elements of depression and anxiety(Brosh, 2020). For instance, their trainers have high expectations of excellent performance during their college days. Thus, the students are predisposed to be overwhelmed by anxiety and depression due to the high demand for excellence in games and sports(Drew and Matthews, 2019). Also, they may develop stress which may lead to the anxiety of dismally performing in their areas. Thus, the conflicting emotions of being positioned on a pedestal on athletics performance even after graduation while simultaneously encountering the rigors of job-hunting might be unique for athletes.

Understanding depression and anxiety among college post-graduate athletes require background definitions of the terminologies. Brosh(2020) opines that depression is an incapacitating mental disorder, which encompasses symptoms such as sadness, anger, and interests lost in one’s enjoyable activities, thus interfering with daily life(Dickinson, 2021). Anxiety refers to an unfriendly mood of tension and apprehension associated with fear but not focused on an object of instant danger(Trojian,2016). Anxiety is most associated with autonomic symptoms, particularly increased heart rate, dry mouth, and to extreme extents hyperventilation(. Studies and research on depression and anxiety among post-graduate college athletes are gaining momentum due to this group’s higher susceptibility rate. In the U.S, 33% of college athletes’ students experience anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions immediately after completing college(Dickinson, 2021). However, the college athletes with mental health disorders, only 10% die to seek psychiatrist help (Sutcliffe & Greenberger, 2020). Among the professional athletes, data depicts that 35% of the elite college athletes experience a crisis in mental health, manifested as stress, eating disorders, depression, and anxiety.

Nevertheless, former collegiate athletes often obtained their personal identities from sporting activities. This encompassed laser-beam focus on athletics in college. They are often surrounded by colleague athletes who have an athletic identity from their fellows who identify them in colleges as athletics(Wolanin et al.,2015). However, they must unplug from their self-identity as college athletes when graduation time reaches. Cox(2015) posits that the most typical time for depression among former collegiate athletics is between the ages of 20 years and 30 years. The age bracket is positively correlated with graduation and ending the sporting career ( Sutcliffe & Greenberger, 2020). Therefore, lack of self-identity in the athletics realms after completing their college athlete career culminates in increased levels of generalized anxiety, low self-esteem, and depression. Wolanin et al.(2015) opine that lack of self-identity in the athletics groups causes loss-confidence, social anxiety, chronic loneliness, thus threatening the ability of the former collegiate athletes to connect with other people.

Also, most former collegiate degrees are within the 20-20 age brackets, constituting a highly susceptible age bracket of experiencing depression and anxiety. Sutcliffe and Greenberger(2020)being within the highly vulnerable age group, former collegiate athletes encounter less social support than they obtained from teammates, coaches, and advisors while in college. Lack of social support may comprise a form of stress that culminates in depression. Nevertheless, the absence of social support makes former college athletes vulnerable to developing mood swings and disorders(Cox, 2015). Generally, an athlete who keeps meaningful connections with other teammates and coaches stays connected in games and sports life. The athlete can visualize the future, make plans to keep going and stray from the harmful ways. Thus, isolation after graduation among the athletes leads to depression.

Besides, professional athletes tend to focus on job hunting after college graduation, which means they have little time for exercising through athletics and other physical gaming and sporting. Exercise aids in preventing and improving a number of mental health problems such as diabetes and arthritis. Nevertheless, a study on depression, anxiety, and exercise depict the psychological and physical merits of exercise that aids in improving mood and reducing anxiety(Hoshikawa et al.,2018). Thus, lack of regular exercise means that little or no feel-good endorphins are released on former collegiate athletics. Doherty et al.(2016) opine that natural cannabis, akin to the brain chemical, endogenous cannabinoids, and other natural brain cells, improves the sense of mental well-being. Also, physical exercises take off mind worries, thus reducing anxiety(Hoshikawa et al.,2018). Thus, lack of it thereof means that former collegiate athletes are vulnerable to anxiety and depression. Thus, the former college athletes may no longer work out vigorously daily, thus, losing the peak physical condition, which is a causative factor of depression.

According to Sanders and Stevinson(2017), career-ending injuries refer to a sudden and unanticipated injury or illness that culminates in disability to an individual and compels them to give up their sporting ambitions and dreams. Sheinbein(2016) opines that career-ending injury among former collegiate athletes is more likely to cause depression symptoms after graduation. Putukian(2016) states that there is an emotional response to any type of injury. The typical emotional responses constitute sadness, isolation, irritation, anger, and frustration. Additionally, a victim becomes problematic when the symptoms become extreme over time. The extremity of the symptoms is characterized by eating disorders, sadness leading to depression, and lack of motivation culminating in empathy (Sheinbein, 2016). A career-ending injury encompasses an athlete getting an injury, but the career can be anything that requires physical and mental ability. Sanders and Stevinson(2017) state that the injury condition may occur worse unexpectedly to an extent where the athlete is no longer fit for his or her career. With an athlete known for being prone to injury or too stubborn to know when to stop, this injury depicts writing on the wall(Li et al.,2017). Also, the fear of a source of livelihood after a career ends due to injury culminates in stress and later depression.

Still, concussion refers to traumatic brain injury (TBI) as a result of a bump, blow, or jolt to the head. Also, it may be due to a hit to the body, causing the head and the brain to move quickly back and forth. The instant movement causes the brain to bounce around the skull, generating chemical alterations in the brain and, to extreme extents destroying the cells of the brain (Kerr et al., 2014). Recurrent concussions are of great concern, given the research on the former collegiate athletes that opine that recurrent concussion accelerates long-term negative mental health results, particularly depression, cognitive impairment, and anxiety. Kerr et al.(2014) opine that concussion during the sporting life of professional athletes is positively correlated with chronic traumatic encephalopathy(CTE), a progressive neurodegenerative mental disorder associated with athletes in high contact sports such as football and boxing that have experienced a repetitive head injury. Additionally, it has been ascertained that TBI is highly associated with symptoms of mental health disorders, particularly depression, aggression, and impulsivity(Meehan et al.,2015). Therefore, there is a positive correlation between concussion and high susceptibility to severe depression and higher impulsivity and aggression among post-graduate student-athletes.

In conclusion, the mental state of college athletes after graduates needs increased awareness, education, counseling by the athletic departments and former medical and college personnel. The common mental health disorders among former collegiate athletes are depression and anxiety. The two mental disorders result from a lack of personal or self-identity after detachment from athletics. Additionally, the lack of social support from fellow athletics and coaches causes depression and anxiety. Career-ending injuries make a former collegiate develop a fear of medical bills and source of livelihood, thus causing stress. Stress culminates in emotional responses such as anxiety. A concussion encompasses traumatic brain Injury that causes a lot of emotional trauma to former athletes, which greatly causes impulsivity, aggression, and anger, which are emotional responses to depression.


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Dickinson, L. (2021). The Effects of Retirement on Division III Collegiate Athletes’ Mental Health.

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