Injured elite athletes may be rendered much more vulnerable to depression due to extreme chemical changes in their brains associated with a sudden break from heavy training, says.Monash University’s Leon Piterman.
“From a chemical perspective, when you’re exercising regularly and particularly at high levels, you’re changing the brain chemistry, so your endorphins and serotonin levels go up, and if you suddenly have an injury those chemicals just drop,” he said. “Once they drop it can easily catapult an athlete into quite a major depression,” says, Professor Piterman. “Serotonin is known to play a key role in mood, pain regulation, appetite and sleep and is believed to be involved in the development of depression. Moreover, the expectations that athletes have set to succeed make them very vulnerable to the consequences of depression including attempted suicide or suicide when they fail. This includes expectations put upon them not just by themselves but the family, peers, coaches, fans, and so on . . .
Given the spate of such high profile athletes who have succumbed to injury related depression, The Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) has launched a study to calculate more accurately the scope of this syndrome.