Ricky Rubio
Ricky Rubio #3 of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Getty Images

While it is well-known that many elite athletes suffer from depression, addictions, and chronic pain once they retire, others choose to announce their retirements as a way of addressing their mental health issues and recover their full physical and mental well-being.

The most recent case among high-performance athletes is that of Ricky Rubio, the point guard for the Cleveland Cavaliers, who announced the end of his NBA career after 12 seasons.

Born in Catalonia, Spain, in 1990, Rubio played at the highest level in the NBA. He was drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2009 and played for them from 2011 to 2017. Subsequently, he joined the Utah Jazz (2017-2019), the Phoenix Suns (2019-2020), returned to the Timberwolves (2020-2021), and concluded his career with the Cleveland Cavaliers (2021-2024).

With less than a third of the way through the current 2023-2024 season, Rubio posted on X that his 'NBA career has come to an end.' Rubio mentioned a night in July when his 'mind went to a dark place' and stated that the next day he 'decided to stop' his professional career.

According to a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, approximately 40% of elite athletes may experience symptoms of common mental disorders. In fact, athletes in top competitive leagues are twice as likely to experience anxiety compared to non-athletes.

Elite athletes who linked retirement to mental health:

Simone Biles (Gymnastics)

Biles withdrew from several events at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to prioritize her mental health, raising awareness about the pressures faced by athletes.

Ricky Rubio and Elite Athletes Tie Retirement to Mental Health Concerns

Naomi Osaka (Tennis)

The four-time Grand Slam champion has taken several breaks from tennis due to anxiety and depression, and while she hasn't officially retired, her future in the sport remains uncertain.

Alissa Nakken (Soccer)

The Canadian goalkeeper retired in 2023 at age 27 due to anxiety and depression, citing the pressures of professional sports as a major factor.

Brandon Roy (Basketball)

The NBA player abruptly retired in 2013 at age 27 due to severe anxiety and depression, highlighting the mental strain of professional athletics.

Tyrell Terry (Basketball)

Terry only played two seasons for the Dallas Mavericks. He announced retirement in 2023 citing anxiety, which led to "dark times."

Ronda Rousey (MMA)

Rosey was a top star in the UFC until she abruptly put an end to her career in 2018. She says she never recovered after a resounding loss to Holly Holm in 2015. While she retired from the mixed martial arts, she signed with the WWE as a professional wrestler.

Athletes who have addressed mental health after retirement:

Michael Phelps (Swimming)

The most decorated Olympian of all time has openly discussed his battles with depression and anxiety, which he experienced even during his peak swimming career.

Johnny Manziel (Football)

The former NFL quarterback has spoken about experiencing anxiety and depression throughout his career, which ultimately contributed to his early retirement.

Ryan Leaf (Football)

Another former NFL quarterback, Leaf has battled depression and addiction, which he attributes partly to the pressures of professional football.

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