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Undesired career termination represents a critical life event for professional athletes. This study examined traumatic stress resulting from (a) a career-ending event and (b) the athlete’s separation from his or her social support network. Data were collected from 40 professional athletes who were members of the German National Ski Team, using standardized (Impact of Event Scale; Posttraumatic Diagnostic Scale) and partially standardized (psychosomatic stress reaction) questionnaires. Correlations between the impact of termination and traumatic stress symptoms were observed over a period of 8 months. Athletes who experienced supportive termination (involving discussion with coaches) endorsed fewer symptoms than those who experienced socially disintegrative termination (lacking support of coaches). Nearly 20% of participants endorsed clinically relevant levels of traumatic stress at 3 and 8 months posttermination.
Pia-Maria Wippert is with the Institute of Public Health Research and Jens Wippert is with the Department of Psychology, both at the Technical University of Munich, Connollystr 32, 80809 Munich, Germany. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.