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Dwyane Wade setting the example for how to retire!

April 10, 2019

Dwyane Wade is a 37 year old professional basketball player in his last season. His professional career has been with Miami since his 5th overall draft pick in 2003 except for two years when he was traded between Chicago and Cleveland.

 

Dwayne is a rags to riches story. He was born on the south side of Chicago to a teen mom.  His mother was addicted to drugs and dealt drugs. Dwyane has stories of finding dead bodies in the trash can near his home and seeing adults shoot up and needles laying around his home. He fought the temptation to follow that example by being involved in sports. He played football and basketball. He was a star on his high school basketball team. He was recruited and played at Marquette.

 

 

After 15 years in the NBA Dwyane has achieved almost yearly participation in the NBA All-star game, 2 Championships, and was a member of the US Olympic team. He is currently married to Gabrielle Union. Dwyane has spent this year trading jersey's with other players as a way to commemorate his career and say goodbye. He has spoken publicly about his retirement and the toll athletics has taken on his physical health. He has stated that in basketball 37 is old but in life you are usually hitting your prime at 40. He has spoken about his anxiety in relation to the transition into retirement and what's next. He has stated he feels in competition with the success of his wife and doesn't want to be the husband who is still in his pajamas when she gets home after she has worked all day. There is currently a Budweiser ad out that shows Dwyane trading jerseys or cap and gown with several people he has influenced in his career. It's a tear jerker. It shows how bitter sweet retirement can be. 

We know that retirement even in those who are in their 60's or 70's can be a huge transition. We know that the loss of identity associated with being a professional can cause mental health problems. The lack of activity and the social isolation can also be a concern. The risk of depression is real. 

We know that athletes who transition out of sports due to age or injury are at risk for depression. Most athletes have spent their lives managing schedules that include practice and social engagements related to their sport. Their identity is tied to being an athlete. The loss of that identity and the task of redefining their purpose can be a struggle. The loss of the social network associated with the team can compound this. Again, the risk of depression is real. 

Dwyane Wade has spoken publicly over the last several weeks about his plane for retirement. He has stated that he plans on spending more time with his wife and children. He also plans on splitting time between LA and Miami. He feels tied to Miami the city that has been home for 15 years. He also feels pulled to LA where his family lives. He has stated that he will be finding a therapist. Dwyane has admitted that he originally was resistant to the idea of counseling but now feels it may be helpful. He knows that he will face a void after retiring and wants to get ahead of it. Dwyane may or may not realize his increased risk for depression and anxiety based on his history of trauma. His ACE score is likely extremely high. We know that this leaves him at increased risk for mental health issues. Getting ahead of the issue and seeking help before there is a problem is great idea. I wish this was something we invested in more often. 

What if we encouraged every athlete when retiring whether out of high school, college, or the pros to seek counseling as part of the transition? 

What if we made it standard practice to see a therapist when you have a separation from sport due to injury? 

What if part of treatment for catastrophic injury included seeing a therapist? 

We know these issues increase risk for depression and anxiety. We give medication and treatment to prevent physical ailments. We need to do this for mental health as well. The goal needs to be to maintain mental health and prevent mental illness instead of only re actively treat mental illness. I think that Dwyane Wade speaking publicly about this is wonderful. He continues to be a role model without knowing. They are saying he's "Wading" into retirement". I say he's setting the example for how to retire.

 

 

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