Player union unpicks football mental health taboo

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LONDON (AP) — One in four professional footballers said they suffer symptoms of anxiety and depression in a new study into the sport's largely unexplored "dark side" of mental illness.

The mental health of recently retired professional footballers was even more worrisome, with one in three reporting signs of anxiety and depression.

Some 300 current and former professionals — from the Netherlands, Major League Soccer, Scotland, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand — took part in the study for the players' union FIFPro.

Among the active footballers, 10 percent reported symptoms of distress, five percent reported signs of burnout, and three percent said they suffered from low self-esteem. Nearly 20 percent reported problems with alcohol, and seven percent said they smoked.

Among former professionals, 15 percent showed signs of burnout and 18 percent signs of distress. One in three reported drinking problems, 12 percent smoked, and 39 percent reported suffering from depression and anxiety.

"There is definitely some dark side of professional football," FIFPro chief medical officer Vincent Gouttebarge said.

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