Identity gripping or identity flight? Two distinct experiences correlated with self-reported depression in retired professional ice hockey players

Peter R. Aston*, Mikaela A. Brewer, Dustin W. Kieschnick, Monica C. Allen, Peter J. van Roessel, David E. Lavallee, Carolyn I. Rodriguez

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
88 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

This study presents qualitative data on the retirement experiences of retired professional ice hockey players and the relationship of these experiences to self-reported depressive symptoms and measures of athletic identity. Data were obtained from an online survey sent to retired professional hockey players within the Professional Hockey Players’ Association (PHPA) database. A total of 213 retired players completed the qualitative section of the survey and were included in the study. Former players expressed an array of responses to questions about the best and most difficult parts of their athletic retirement experiences, and what they believe would help future generations of retiring hockey players. Within these responses, there were two distinct patterns of identity-based challenges among depressed former players. One subset of depressed former players, captured by our proposed term athletic identity flight, scored lower in athletic identity, and emphasized positive aspects of retirement related to “building a new identity.” A second subset of depressed former players, who we described with the term athletic identity gripping, noted an identity crisis upon retiring and retained a strong athletic identity post-career. Non-depressed former players in our sample were more likely to emphasize the importance of career support to help future retiring hockey players, whereas depressed former players emphasized the importance of mental health support. Our findings may inform future preventative interventions to assist retiring hockey players in their end-of-athletic-career transition and suggest the value of tailoring interventions based on the strength of athletic identity and the presence of depressive symptoms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)70-91
Number of pages22
JournalInternational Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
Volume22
Issue number1
Early online date5 Dec 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2024

Keywords

  • Athletic retirement
  • Athletic identity
  • Mental health
  • Duty of care

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