It's not what it seems.
When I say "end a professional career before it gets started" I'm referring to the need for aspiring athletes to prepare themselves for the end of their career before they actually get started in it. To develop a set of life skills as an emerging athlete, that will ultimately enable a successful and balanced transition into sporting retirement, is becoming more and more essential as we hear of tragic examples of sportspeople not coming to terms with a normal existence.
It's not to say that these skills are unique to sportspeople, they would be useful for anyone trying to navigate through the pretty hectic world we live in. It is to say, though, that as athletes become more ingrained in the unreal world of professional sports they are more capable of becoming disconnected with the social norms or practices expected of us mere mortals. They are drawn into a world where the standards they live by are somewhat different to the 9 to 5 office worker who has two kids at home. Once in this space they find it increasingly harder to develop the skills needed to overcome the behavioural patterns that this life encourages. In simple terms, dealing with the constant roller coaster of success and failure and the public comment relating to that. Very few sportspeople dominate their sport that much that they don't seem to have to be concerned with losing; Usain Bolt is probably the most famous of these and he is in rarified air. Most athletes will need to take the good with the bad and if they haven't developed skills to deal with the public scrutiny of that before it happens then it's too late.