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4A.003 Post-career transition experiences of professional American football players retiring from brain-health concerns
  1. Zachary Kerr1,
  2. Samuel Walton1,
  3. Benjamin Brett2,
  4. JD DeFreese1,
  5. Erianne Weight1,
  6. Avinash Chandran4,
  7. Ruben Echemendia3,
  8. Michael McCrea2,
  9. William Meehan5,
  10. Kevin Guskiewicz1
  1. 1University of North Carolina At Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, USA
  2. 2Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, USA
  3. 3Psychological and Neurobehavioral Associates, Inc., State College, USA
  4. 4Datalys Center for Sports Injury Research and Prevention, Indianapolis, USA
  5. 5Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston, USA


Background The long-term effects of concussions have led to concerns regarding former professional American football players’ post-career transitions. This cross-sectional study examines post-career transition experiences of former players retiring due to brain-health concerns.

Methods Former players (n=1,784), recruited via National Football League (NFL) and Players’ Association contact lists, completed an online/paper questionnaire. Variables included: demographics, playing history, retirement reasons (pre-specified options), and factors helping/hindering post-career transitions (open-ended). We calculated descriptives for study variables from players reporting retirement due to brain-health concerns. Using template analysis, we coded open-ended responses to identify factors helping/hindering post-career transitions.

Results Overall, 211 (11.8%) former players retired due to brain-health concerns (mean age=50.9±18.1, mean years played professionally=6.9±3.3). Alongside brain-health, other retirement reasons included: concerns about long-term physical health (n=155), mental health (n=121), and chronic pain (n=120). Factors helping post-career transitions were problem-focused (e.g., future planning, advice from older players, saving money) and emotionally-focused (e.g., faith/religion, spousal support, health provider/therapist care). Hindering factors were personal (e.g., ongoing musculoskeletal injury/pain issues, mental health concerns, poor health insurance, lacking transition plans, losing former schedule/routine), interpersonal (e.g. lacking support/empathy, being asked why they need to still work), and organizational (e.g., poor post-career transition support). These themes were also present among former players not reporting retirement due to brain-health concerns.

Conclusion Numerous post-career transition issues concern former players. Multidimensional interventions that mitigate cognitive challenges, chronic pain, and occupational stressors may help optimize post-career transition coping strategies.

Learning Outcomes Describe the post-career transition experiences of former players retiring from brain-health concerns.

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