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Virus shutdown could impact mental health of ‘at-risk’ footballers, warns doctor

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Scottish football’s medical chief has warned that the coronavirus pandemic could exacerbate mental health problems among “at-risk” players.

Global players’ union FIFPro last month warned of a sharp rise in the number of footballers reporting symptoms of anxiety and depression since the game was suspended worldwide.

A study in 2015 found that 64 percent of players in Scotland reported that they or a team-mate had experienced issues with their mental health.

“Our initial study identified key triggers for mental health issues in football,” John MacLean, the Scottish Football Association’s chief medical consultant, told the SFA’s website.

“These include players at the beginning or end of their career with uncertainty around their new contracts and the prospect of having to find employment and finance outside professional football.”

“At times like this, some players already considered to be at risk will potentially feel the further impact,” he added.

MacLean sits on the COVID-19 joint response group, which brings together the SFA and the Scottish Professional Football League.

Football in Scotland has been suspended until at least June 10 and all leagues below the Premiership have been declared over for the season.

England’s Premier League clubs were meeting on Friday to discuss proposals on how to finish the campaign behind closed doors.

“From a medical perspective, we will look at the issues in the journey back to training and eventual matches,” said MacLean.

“We will discuss the practicalities of testing, protocols for unwell players and staff, as well as using facilities shared with other groups.

“When you list all the different aspects, it’s quite a task but we have a group motivated to find solutions and take advice from others around the UK and the world, in both football and other sports.”


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