The most common treatments are psychotherapy and medication. It is important to recognise that the successful treatment of depression often requires a combination of treatments. For example, a player who describes developing symptoms after ongoing conflict with his coach is unlikely to benefit from antidepressant medications alone. Addressing the conflict and developing strategies to mitigate this would also be important.
- For mild to moderate depression, psychotherapy may be the best option. Two main types of psychotherapies – cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy (IPT) – are effective in treating depression. However, for severe depression or for certain people, psychotherapy may not be enough.
- Antidepressant medications primarily work on brain chemicals called neurotransmitters, especially serotonin and norepinephrine. Other antidepressants work on the neurotransmitter dopamine. Antidepressant use is not common in football players – even in those who report symptoms consistent with depression. This may reflect a reluctance to prescribe this type of medication in this group or be an indication that these symptoms are not being diagnosed effectively. It is important to treat football players with depression appropriately. Medication can be an effective strategy and should be considered.
Prof Astrid Junge
Professor of Prevention and Sports