"Millionaire sports person suffering from depression;" it is an all too common headline and one which still seems to shock many, as if fame and fortune should somehow immune individuals from mental illness and sadness. The truth is, sportspeople are actually one of the most likely groups in society to fall into depression, with some reports suggesting that it could be as many as one in four athletes that suffer from the condition at some stage in their life.
It is most common for an athlete to suffer depression after retirement. The thrill and exhilaration of playing the game you love in front of thousands can be difficult to replace in life, and some fall down the path of drugs, alcohol and gambling in an attempt to feel the same level of excitement; which is of course a dangerous cocktail which often leads to struggles with conditions such as depression.
With such a high number of athletes having problems with depression, there was no shortage of candidates to make this list. As such, I have selected high-profile athletes, most of whom were at or near the very top of their profession. Thankfully, a number of these athletes got over their depression, while others still labor with the condition and some, sadly, took their own life. Here are the top 20 athletes who have battled depression:
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20 Shawn Osborne
Shawn Osborne was part of the WWE's developmental talent from 2003 until 2008. Without any distinctive star quality to set him apart from other hopefuls, Osborne was eventually released by the WWE. The news hit him hard, and although he moved into the independent circuit, the disappointment of WWE failure was something he never recovered from. His depression began after his release in 2008, and in 2011 he killed himself, citing the release as one of the reasons behind his death.
19 Ricky Williams
Enormous pressure is put upon athletes, who are often just young men and women, and that was the case with a 21-year-old Ricky Williams. Having been drafted by the New Orleans Saints, Williams said he felt at the time as if he had, "got his coach fired and let an entire city down", describing the experience as "horrific". An immensely shy character, Williams was never able to share his feelings and fell into depression as a result. It was not until he was diagnosed with social anxiety disorder that Williams began to understand and overcome his problems.
18 Freddie Flintoff
English cricket hero Freddie Flintoff was regarded as one of the best all-rounders in world cricket for much of his career. He was a major part of England's famous 2005 Ashes victory over Australia, which ended eight straight victories by the Australian team and began a streak of English victories. Flintoff also competed as a professional boxer in 2012, but fought only one bought. Flintoff has struggled with depression, particularly following his first retirement in 2009, and told the press of his struggles in 2015, although his heavy drinking was already widely known.
17 Terry Bradshaw
Terry Bradshaw had an incredibly decorated 13-year NFL career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, winning the AFC Central Championship eight times, Super Bowl four times and twice being named the Super Bowl MVP, as well as being a Pro Bowl selection on three occasions. Bradshaw retired in 1983, and revealed that he had been suffering from anxiety attacks. In 1999, he was diagnosed with clinical depression and as of today suffers from short-term memory loss, which has been attributed to his NFL days.
16 Stan Collymore
Stan Collymore was at one time one of the most highly-regarded soccer players in England. Sir Alex Ferguson had tried to sign him at Manchester United, before Collymore set a British record transfer fee, moving to Liverpool from Nottingham Forest for $18 million. Collymore averaged a goal every two games for both Forest and Liverpool, but was capped only three times by England. Collymore has had numerous bouts of depression over the years and has been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.
15 Greg Stiemsma
Greg Stiemsma is one of very few athletes on this list who is still active within the world of sport. Aged 29, Stiemsma last played for the Toronto Rapids from 2014-15, and has previously turned out for the Boston Celtics, the Minnesota Timberwolves, the New Orleans Pelicans and played in both Turkey and South Korea. Stiemsma began suffering from depression while in high school, and those problems grew and grew until, in 2006, he was forced to see a doctor. Stiemsma has said he felt that those who forced him into that decision saved his life.
14 Frank Bruno
Former WBC world heavyweight champion Frank Bruno was one of the men who made the heavyweight division in boxing so entertaining in the 1990s. Bruno had notable bouts against the likes of Oliver McCall, Joe Bugner, Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis. Bruno was immensely popular in Britain and retired in 1996 after defeat to Mike Tyson at the MGM Grand. Bruno was taken to hospital in 2003, having been struggling with depression for a number of months, where doctors diagnosed him with bipolar disorder. In 2005, Bruno admitted to cocaine use, which is thought to have been a catalyst in his depression.
13 Darryl Strawberry
One of the great figures of baseball throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Darryl Strawberry was one of the game's most revered individuals, and for good reason. Strawberry won the World Series four times; once with the New York Mets and three times with the New York Yankees. An indication of his popularity, Strawberry was voted into the All-Star Game on eight straight occasions. Strawberry had a difficult childhood, and was badly beaten by his alcoholic father, and Strawberry later turned to alcohol and drugs himself. Afraid to share his problems with others, Strawberry's depression grew worse, before revealing all in his autobiography.
12 Larry Sanders
Larry Sanders walked away from the NBA in February 2015 at the age of just 26. After five years in the NBA playing for the Milwaukee Bucks, Sanders called time on his basketball career earlier than most, rejecting a contract worth a reported $27 million in the process. At the time of his exiting from the game, Sanders was in hospital receiving treatment for his anxiety, depression and mood disorders. He now claims that he has never been happier, but simply cannot devote so much of his time to the sport he loves, although he has not ruled out a return to the NBA one day.
11 Ricky Hatton
Ricky Hatton is a former WBA, IBF, IBO and the Ring Welterweight champion of the world. Hatton was widely regarded as one of the best boxers in the world and was loved in Britain, but his first career defeat came at the hands of Floyd Mayweather Jr, and they shattered the world champion. He never looked the same again, and after being floored in the second round against Manny Pacquiao, Hatton called time on his boxing career after 45 wins and 2 losses. It was those two defeats which sent Hatton into depression; he went into rehab in 2010 to try and overcome his alcohol and depression struggles.
10 Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson
Dwayne Johnson, or 'The Rock, as he is better known to some, is a ten-time WWE champion turned actor, whose films have grossed well in excess of a billion dollars. Johnson started out as a college footballer but soon turned his attention to wrestling, where he became one of the pivotal figures of the Attitude Era. The Rock made his Hollywood debut in 2002, raking in $5.5 million, a world record for an actor making their screen debut. Johnson revealed in 2014 that he has had three bouts of serious depression, and told the press that they could strike again.
9 Oscar De La Hoya
Having won 10 world titles in six different weight classes, Oscar De La Hoya is regarded by many as one of boxing's all-time greats. He defeated an astonishing 17 world champions, and was twice ranked as the best pound-for-pound boxer on the planet. De La Hoya had notable bouts against the likes of Julio Cesar Chavez, Shane Mosley, Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao, and received more than $700 million in purses. The Golden Boy had numerous struggles with cocaine and alcohol addiction and put his depression into the public domain in 2011.
8 Paul Gascoigne
One of the most gifted soccer players England have ever produced, Paul Gascoigne would have gone down as one of the game's all-time greats if it wasn't for his numerous demons. Suffering from a highly addictive personality; depression, bulimia, OCD, bipolar, alcoholism, cocaine, chain-smoking, gambling and junk food all rank among Gazza's troubled life. He is still struggling to overcome his problems, as he has been for the majority of his life now.
7 Skull Murphy
Canadian wrestler Skull Murphy's most famous successes came in the tag team championships with Brute Bernard. Murphy developed a rare disease as a child which prevented him from growing any hair on his body. Pro wrestling has had a number of struggles with its athletes and depression, and Murphy is one of the most notable example. One night in 1970, when Murphy was scheduled to be fighting, he was found dead in his apartment, having committed suicide by overdosing on sleeping pills.
6 Johnny Tapia
Johnny Tapia's boxing career was plagued by depression, twinned with alcohol and cocaine addiction. Despite those considerable setbacks, the American was still able to become a five-time world champion. Tapia was a world champion at flyweight, bantamweight and featherweight levels and retired with a record of 59 wins, 5 losses and 2 draws. Tapia had a truly tragic childhood. His father was murdered while his mother was pregnant with him and his mother was kidnapped, raped, hanged and stabbed to death when Tapia was eight. Tapia died in 2012, aged 45, of heart failure.
5 Gary Speed
Only David James and Ryan Giggs had played more Premier League games than Gary Speed when he retired. The Wales international was capped 85 times by his country and played for Leeds United, Everton, Newcastle United, Bolton Wanderers and Sheffield United in a 22 year career. Speed was managing the Welsh national team in 2011, when he was found having hanged himself in his own home. Aged 42, Speed was said to have been suffering with depression, but hadn't let his family or friends know of the problems.
4 Andre Waters
Andre Waters was regarded as one of the NFL's hardest hitting defenders throughout his 11 year career, in which time he played for the Philadelphia Eagles and the Arizona Cardinals, making the All-Pro selection in 1991. Waters struggled with depression, which was sped-up by his failure to get a coaching job in the NFL. He was found dead in 2006, having committed suicide by gunshot to the head. Examination of Waters' brain tissue revealed that he had sustained brain damage during his playing days, and that his brain had degenerated to the that of an 85-year-old man with Alzheimer's.
3 Rick Rypien
Best known for his hitting and fighting abilities, Rick Rypien was a highly regarded NHL player who played for both the Vancouver Canucks and Manitoba Moose. Rypien had long struggled with clinical depression for more than 10 years, but he didn't reveal his struggles until 2008. He was given leave of absence twice by the Canucks when the depression was at its worst, but in 2011, Rypien took his own life. He was 27 years old.
2 Robert Enke
Robert Enke was a very highly-regarded goalkeeper who played for the likes of Benfica and Barcelona, before settling down in his native Germany with Hanover. He played 164 times for Hanover, and was being considered as Germany's first choice goalkeeper ahead of the 2010 World Cup. Enke suffered from panic attacks and had been battling depression for six years when he committed suicide in 2009. He stood in front of a regional express train which killed him instantly. Having already had trouble with depression, Enke's troubles had been made worse by the death of his daughter in 2006 which propelled him towards eventually taking his life.
1 The Von Erich Family
Professional wrestler Fritz Von Erich competed throughout the 1950s, 60s and 70s, before retiring from wrestling in 1983. He won the AWA World title in 1963, appearing as Nazi villain in his early wrestling career. Fritz had six children, five of whom died before him, three committing suicide. His firstborn, Jack, died at the age of 6 as a result of accidental electrocution. The other five children all went into professional wrestling. David Von Erich died of acute enteritis in Tokyo at the age of 25. Of the other four, three committed suicide and one is still alive today.
Mike Von Erich had an illustrious wrestling career, and is a member of the WWE Hall of Fame. Mike made his debut at the age of 20 and had a fast and furious career before committing suicide at the age of 23. He developed toxic shock syndrome and brain damage, leading to his drug and alcohol abuse and eventual depression; he overdosed on alcohol and sleeping pills in 1987.
Kerry Von Erich faced similar troubles; after the amputation on his foot he became addicted to pain killers, and in turn more serious drugs. Kerry believed his four deceased brothers were calling out to him, and shot himself in the heart.
The last of the brothers to die, Chris Von Erich, grew depressed over the deaths of his brothers. In 1991, a year after his WWE debut, aged 21, he shot himself in the head.
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