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From trophies to set backs: Why an athlete’s mental stability is important

From Michael Jordan and LeBron James to Marshawn Lynch and Tom Brady, the world is in awe of most athletes. Still, there’s one thing we don’t take into consideration — an athlete’s mental stability.

When it comes to pro sports players in any league, they’re often perceived as superhumans due to their athletic abilities that allow them to play the sport they love at such a high level.

We watch these amazing athletes give their all to their respective sports from our couches, beds, classrooms, and sometimes even in person. Betting on what teams will win, lose, and make it to the finals is all part of the game.

But there’s more to sports. Athletes are people too and often deal with anxiety, depression, and mental illnesses. A week after the Aaron Hernandez documentary hit Netflix, footages were released of former NBA player Delonte West sitting in the street looking mentally distraught.

During the Aaron Hernandez documentary, viewers are informed that after his death doctors reported he suffered from the worst case of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) they’ve ever seen.

While that is no excuse for the crimes he committed, it brings to question why he was only diagnosed after his death. How can such a closely watched athlete’s medical health fall under the ropes so easily?

The system fails again with former NBA player Delonte West who suffers from bipolar disorder. It’s publicly documented that West has suffered from mental issues in the past, yet the NBA has done nothing to shed light on his situation.

The heartbreaking video of Delonte West reveals that even heroes need rescuing sometimes, especially at the hands of mental illness. This issue brings to question a majorly unaddressed topic in the world of professional athletes.

What does the league need to do to help a player suffering from a mental illness?

Cavs star Kevin Love spoke out on his own mental health recently and said,

“Call it a stigma or call it fear or insecurity — you can call it a number of things — but what I was worried about wasn’t just my own inner struggles but how difficult it was to talk about them. I didn’t want people to perceive me as somehow less reliable as a teammate, and it all went back to the playbook I’d learned growing up.”

Athletes worldwide suffer from mental illnesses that remain untreated due to a lack of care by their respective organizations. Dozens of players suffering in silence due to the same “playbook” they had all learned.

The NFL and NBA are not the only associations that have failed their players. Numerous well known and established athletes from all sports suffer from mental illnesses that the world is unaware of.

One of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson suffered from depression.

U.S. Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps suffered from depression while earning our nation over two dozen metals. Phelps said,

“For the longest time, I thought asking for help was a sign of weakness because that’s kind of what society teaches us. That’s especially true from an athlete’s perspective. If we ask for help, then we’re not this big macho athlete that people can look up to.”

Phelps continued:

“Well, you know what? If someone wants to call me weak for asking for help, that’s their problem. Because I’m saving my own life.”

Former NFL wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who suffered from borderline personality disorder and depression throughout his playing career, has been one of the most outspoken figures on mental health in sports for years now.

Roughly, 46.4 percent of Americans suffer from mental illnesses, yet none of these diagnoses are shown when you Google any of these athletes.

There’s no recognition or support from their respective leagues. Must a player be dead for them to be rightfully diagnosed?

Athletes give their all to the game, pushing their entire being to the limit every day to meet the demands of their fans and coaches. Yet when it’s our turn to take care of them, we ignore it. We treat it as if acknowledging it makes them less of an athlete.

A rolled ankle? Have it taped up and get back in the game. A jammed finger? Have it taped and get back in the game. A mental health disorder? We can only wonder what the diagnosis is.

After the video of Delonte was posted, his former roommates and former NBA player Jameer Nelson took to social media to voice his concerns for his friend.

People have begun to reach out to the NBA as well as West’s former teammates to help the obviously unwell former player.

After Aaron’s suicide and Delonte’s obvious unstable nature it brings to question just how well the league takes care of there own. In both cases, treatment could’ve been easily attained. Still, treatment was quickly ignored.

How many more athletes must suffer in silence until they either choose death or are beaten in the middle of a highway before we give them the help they need? This issue affects not only professional athletes but athletes at all levels.

Depression is not a weakness. Being bipolar doesn’t make you crazy. As humans we were all born with imperfections, however, some simply stand out more than others.

Still, what are our options? Is there a possible solution? Yes, we can start to focus on the bigger picture. Brands like UNINTERRUPTED are proving that there are avenues and other ways for athletes to prosper.

They’re proving that our sports heroes can be #MoreThanAnAthlete.

Aaron Hernandez had ‘most severe case’ of CTE ever for someone his age

Aaron Hernandez was on the brink of superstardom.

The former New England Patriots tight end was one of the most electric young players in the NFL and had just signed a $40 million contract.

Hernandez was one-half of the dynamic tight end duo with Rob Gronkowski destined to rule the league for the foreseeable future. Then a former accomplice was found dead and slowly Hernandez’s history of pathological violence unfolded in the public eye.

The precipitous fall of Aaron Hernandez ended in April of this year, when the former University of Florida Gator took his own life in his cell at Massachusetts Correctional Institution in Shirley, Mass.

His brain was donated to researchers at Boston Univrsity and the results of the examination have been met with shock by researchers. According to the New York Times,

“The brain scan came as a surprise even to researchers who for years have been studying the relationship between brain disease and deaths of professional football players.”

The level of the degenerative brain disease Chronic Traumatic Enteropathy (CTE) caused by repeated blows to the head found in Hernandez’s brain was “the most severe case they had ever seen in someone of Aaron’s age,” according to Hernandez family lawyer Jose Baez.

Hernandez’s brain was so deteriorated, “the damage was akin to that of players well into their 60,” according to the New York Times.

This is another brutal blow for the image of the NFL as the league has dealt with a slew of public relations issues after studies on former players’ brains have displayed rampant cases of CTE.

Players like the great Chargers linebacker Junior Seau, Andre Waters, Dave Duerson, and other players have committed suicide with scans revealing severe cases of CTE, while others have displayed violent behavior. Depression and erratic behavior are said to be main traits of the brain disease CTE.

In July, a study of 111 former players revealed that 110 were found to have CTE.

While a concrete connection between Hernandez’s violent behavior and the deterioration of his brain can never truly be made, it’s not hard to imagine that the “most severe case of CTE ever found” in someone this age may have contributed to Hernandez’s murderous behavior.

Hernandez family is now suing the NFL and the New England Patriots on behalf of Hernandez’s daughter. It’s unclear what legal grounds there are for Hernandez’s family to win this lawsuit, but this is a public relations nightmare for the NFL that isn’t going away.

Aaron Hernandez’s story, from making it out of a rough neighborhood in Bristol, Connecticut to becoming an All-American at the University of Florida alongside Tim Tebow to a high-flying young superstar in the NFL to convicted murderer is an absolute tragedy for everyone involved.

There are no winners in this story. It’s just sad all around.

At some point the NFL will have to actually answer questions about the safety of its players, as our understanding of CTE and the long term effects of tackle football is still developing.

Until then, the hits will keep on coming for the NFL.