Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A serious question

I keep asking myself something, ever since the NHL lost both Derek Boogaard and Rick Rypien over the summer.

NHL teams have people to look after a player's every need: coaches, doctors, equipment managers, skate sharpeners, what-have-you. They take care of preparing the players physically. But what about their psychological problems?

Think about it. Boogaard had substance abuse issues and Rypien had mental health problems, both of which presumably lead to their untimely deaths.
Professional athletes are under a tremendous amount of stress; no amount of fan adoration or scoring bonuses can change that. Some deal with it better than others. They could probably all use a little help from time to time.

I've asked around (thank you, sources) and have learned that most of a hockey team's medical staff isn't permanent. Specialists are only brought in if they're needed. This includes psychologists. Most people are too proud or afraid to admit when they think they might need psychological help. No one wants to admit they're crazy, or that they aren't able to help themselves any more. Somehow I think that this is even truer for professional athletes.

I obviously don't know any specifics - I don't know what Boogaard or Rypien was going through, or what it's like for the hundreds of other guys in the NHL. It's not fair that they have a job where they're provided with the best doctors, coaches, and trainers, but not the best psychological help. And I can't imagine how difficult it must be to know that so many people love buying tickets to see you do what you do best, and that that makes them happy, but that you're struggling with something that you can't talk about.

These guys weren't even 30 yet. That should be enough proof that the NHL needs to pay better attention to the physical and mental health of its players. The league is nothing without its players, and they deserve to be taken care of.


  1. You should also read Bruce Arthur's piece on Rick Rypien. I kind of wish I had written it. http://sports.nationalpost.com/2011/08/16/bruce-arthur-rypien-death-leads-nhl-to-new-turf-depression/

  2. well said. Psychological health is just as important as physical health. Professionals are available & they have the money to offer such help, so why don't they do it. I hate to say this but there are 2 other NHLers that I think are in some risk too, but doesn't look like they're getting help.

  3. It is a serious issue that needs to be looked at. The question is whether or not the league and the players can drop the macho façade and reveal themselves as mentally fragile or emotionally weak? They have no issue admitting when a hamstring is strained or an MCL is torn, but admitting that something is wrong upstairs and that they need to lay on a couch belies the macho nature of pro sports and opens themselves up to ridicule...and don't kid yourself. There are players out there that will use any edge that they can to win. And if that means poking at the soft underbelly of psychological frailty, then so be it.

    Every year as camp opens, each player goes through a mandatory physical to evaluate what shape they're in. Why do they not have a psychologist in tow to give them a bit of a psych evaluation as well? I don't know the answer, but it is looking more and more like it is something they should implement.

  4. Thank you, Cathie and Kyle. I had been thinking about writing this for a while and I'm really glad I'm not the only one who feels this way.


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