A PSA For Athletes

By: Robert Hawn

Over the past few years, the Major League Baseball community lost many great faces of the game. The two that stick out the most to me are the deaths of former Cy Young award winner Roy “Doc” Halladay and the 24-year-old former Rookie of the year winner, Jose Fernandez. 

Although there have been a lot of men and women from the beloved sports world that have passed away recently, these two stand out to me because they are the most relatable. Yes, they are household names but, it makes an athlete think, “Hey, that could happen to me.”


For those who do not know, Roy Halladay lost his life in November of 2017 after the plane he was flying crashed into the Gulf of Mexico. It was originally reported that blunt force trauma and drowning were ruled the causes of death, however the toxicology report stated that Halladay had a high amount of Morphine in his system. There were also trace amounts of Amphetamines that totaled up to1800 ng/ml, nearly three times the average overdose limit.  Amphetamines are commonly used to treat Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) but, could also be used to occasionally treat adults with Narcolepsy or Depression. However, if used incorrectly, an overdose of Amphetamines could result in hallucinations, restlessness and cardiac arrest which could potentially explain how Halladay lost control of the plane. It is fair to say that Halladay was using this combination of Opioids and Stimulants as an escape from the wear and tear that his exhausting 16-year baseball career left him. 

Fernandez on the other hand, who at the time was fighting with his girlfriend, became frustrated and depressed and decided to go for a late-night cruise on his fishing vessel. A few friends accompanied the star as he needed to blow off some steam. Unfortunately, that was the last trip they took as around 3 AM the boat struck a jetty right off the coast of Miami and killed everyone on board. The toxicology report later read that the MLB star, who was behind the wheel, had a large amount of cocaine and alcohol in his system.

The deaths of these stars have brought great sorrow to the world, but they have also brought a very important message to kids. The big picture here is that both men were going through some emotional distress. Whether it was depression, anger, or maybe dealing with injuries, the athletes resorted to looking for an escape that inevitably took their lives.

Although heartbreaking, this could act as a public service announcement that would make the public aware that no one person is indestructible. If this could happen to our pro athletes, imagine how this could be affecting our youth athletes.   

As a former three sport athlete and now coach, it is reasonable to say that this is something that could impact the lives of many other athletes. Regardless of the sport, there are many factors which can cause an athlete to experience stress or anxiety. The commitment of long seasons and daily practices cause constant wear and tear on an athlete’s body. The physical and psychological demands, paired with constant expectations of perfection, could be enough to push certain players past their limits. All these factors could go a long way in potentially causing stress and depression in their lives. 


The idea of being a perfect student as well as the star athlete is manageable for some, but it is still a substantial amount of work, having the potential to lead kids down the wrong path. When pressures to perform are taking over an individual’s life, it is common for those individuals to try to find ways to ease the pain. That being said, it is important to understand that neither drugs nor alcohol are the answer.

I am sure that you are currently asking the question “Why does this matter to me?” and the answer is ALL athletes no matter the age, gender, or athletic ability deal with their own form of stress or pain. It is important to find a way to deal with it properly without harming themselves or their loved ones.

If you or a loved one is currently suffering from emotional distress and resorting to substance abuse, please feel free to contact us here at The Southwest Council.

For more information on how to identify this distress and help athletes; please attend our Points, Penalties and Pills conference that is taking place on Friday, February 23rd 2018 from 9am-1pm at Rowan College at Gloucester County.

Rob is a Prevention Specialist with The Southwest Council

Rob is a Prevention Specialist with The Southwest Council