Damian Hopley on the end of his rugby career: 'It was like a bereavement'

  After his playing career ended, Damian Hopley became depressed. Now, he helps other men discuss the issue   Damian Hopley knows from bitter experience that being a professional athlete can exact a heavy price on the mind as well as the body. Rugby players have always been in harm’s way and Hopley discovered this as a young man 20 years ago. Playing at centre for English Premiership rugby team Wasps, he won what looked like the first three of many England caps in 1995. Rugby union had just stopped being an amateur sport and the Cambridge graduate had given up his job in the City to ride this first wave of professionalism, but Hopley found himself in troubled waters.   In 1996, playing for England at the Hong Kong Sevens, Hopley injured his knee. He saw a surgeon but he injured the knee again and nine operations and two reconstructions later his professional career was over before it had really begun. “The hardest thing is the huge dent in your self-esteem and purpose and realising that you are not a rugby player. It was like a bereavement. Your sense of worth goes out of the window. I didn’t belong any more. Your personal life then goes into freefall because you become so self-obsessed. I had a girlfriend at the time and she walked out on me. Quite rightly, because I would have been a nightmare to live with.”   At 27, Hopley began working in the media and tried to get his life back on track. He met other sportsmen including the former Coventry City footballer David Busst and the former Gloucestershire and England cricketer David “Syd” Lawrence, whose careers had also been cut short by gruesome injuries. Meeting them, Hopley says, helped give him a fresh sense of perspective.   Excerpt from The Guardian, read the full article here.

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