The Harsh Realities of Being a Professional Athlete

Many people dream of becoming professional athletes and very few can see that dream come true. Being a pro athlete is a very lucrative career with many great opportunities, but is it all worth it? While on the outside it looks like pro athletes live the dream, there are a few setbacks and challenges that come with playing sports for a living.

It Doesn’t Last Very Long

When you think of big names such as Peyton Manning, Michael Jordan, and David Beckham, you’ll also think about the length of their career and how long they got to play the sport they love. However, these big names are a part of the very few lucky ones who can play on a professional team for more than five years. Typically, the average pro athlete’s career only lasts three to five years. The moment a player is drafted or signs their contract, the clock starts ticking. Although their salaries seem like more than enough, they will typically have to last them through the next 40 or 50 years of their lives.

Getting Hurt Will Happen

A pro athlete’s short career can be cut even shorter once they get hurt. In pro sports, an injury is very likely to happen and can easily take an athlete out for the rest of the season. The lucky ones only suffer minor injuries, but contact sports like football, boxing, or hockey can be much worse. These athletes are at risk for traumatic brain injury and severe damage to the body. This means that once their sports career is over and they go into “retirement,” there isn’t much work they’ll be able to do because of their injuries.

Athletes Are Taxed More

One of the biggest surprises rookies in pro leagues are handed are the tax withholdings credited to cities and states where their team played during away games. When they sign on to a pro team, not many consider the amount of taxes they will be paying. By the end of the year, athletes are in a high tax bracket and will typically take home less than half of their reported earnings. This means that if they aren’t lucky enough to snag a brand deal, they won’t be taking home as much as they thought they would.

Accidents Can’t Happen

In most regular jobs, if you sprain your ankle, you are still able to do your job without problem. For pro athletes, getting hurt, especially off the field, can be detrimental to their career. Recreational activities like skiing, motorcycles, or even skydiving pose a major threat to athletes. Many contracts will actually prohibit players from putting themselves at risk, which means most of their favorite activities outside of their sport are not allowed. To make matters worse, an accidental fall that results in a fractured wrist could mean losing millions of dollars in earnings.

Originally published at https://barrykornfeld.org.

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