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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 September, 2003, 11:29 GMT 12:29 UK
How Bruno's troubles began
By Tom Fordyce

Frank Bruno's sad plight may be a direct result of his previous sporting success, according to one of Britain's leading psychologists.

Frank Bruno stares at the camera
Bruno's happy public image was at odds with his inner turmoil

Former WBC world heavyweight champion Bruno is currently undergoing psychological tests at Goodmayes hospital in Ilford, Essex, after being sectioned on Monday night.

Bruno has been suffering from depression for several months, problems which Professor Cary Cooper believes stem from the difficulty of coping with the end of his boxing career seven years ago.

"When a sportsman retires, he is lost and doesn't know what to do - and their family doesn't know how to help them," Cooper told this website.

"Sport is all-embracing. It's not just the time you spend training each day, it's your support network. Your coaches and fellow sportsmen are your friends.

"When you leave sport, you lose your way of life and you lose relationships. You are left in a relationship vacuum."

Bruno isolated

"At least in a team sport you have team-mates, and you might have close links to one particular club. That acts as a community for you.

"With boxing, a solitary sport, you don't have that. There's no club to go back to. You become very isolated.

"Frank Bruno lost his job. Then his marriage broke up and his old trainer George Francis committed suicide.

"Those were massive live events to face at that time for him, and sadly we are now seeing the consequences of that."

Sportsmen are not the sort to seek help
Professor Cary Cooper

Bruno is not the first boxer to suffer when their career in the ring has ended.

Britain's former world middleweight champion Randy Turpin, who beat Sugar Ray Robinson, turned to drink and committed suicide in 1966, while Joe Louis, who earned $5m as world heavyweight champion in 1940s, endured tax problems and drug abuse.

"For anyone who has got to the top in a particular profession and then retires, there's a major psychological gap," said Cooper.

"The question suddenly hits them - where do I go from here? What do I do with my life?

"For sportsmen it's even worse, because they retire at a comparatively young age. Few sportsmen plan for retirement in the same way that ordinary people do as they approach the age of 60.

"For a short time a retired sportsman will still get some media attention, but the further away their sporting successes become, the less they have to do.

"The change in lifestyle starts to affect your self-confidence and also those around you, which is why relationships with partners and friends often come under severe strain."

Counselling key

Professor Cooper said that the characteristics a sportsman needs to reach the top can directly impinge on their ability to deal with personal crises.

"Most sportsmen are not planning types," he says.

"They are goal-setters, they are action-orientated people. They do not like to think about the day they are no longer competitive.

"Sportsmen also tend to be macho types, people who think they can do it all themselves because they have always been successful in the past.

"I wonder how many sportspeople are prepared to get counselling when they need it. They are not the sort to seek help."




SEE ALSO
Bruno undergoes psychiatric tests
23 Sep 03  |  UK News
Boxing rallies round Bruno
23 Sep 03  |  Boxing
Profile: Frank Bruno
23 Sep 03  |  Boxing
Q&A: Mental health 'sectioning'
20 Aug 02  |  Health



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