I suppose the bearings could be worn, but it’s pretty unlikely. I’m thinking maybe the spring that keeps tension on the bearings could be weak, or maybe something is missing causing excessive clearance. As I mentioned earlier, steering columns can be a pain in the ass!! Who knows who may have tried repairs in the past? Wouldn’t be the first time someone couldnt figure out how something went together, and left out “extra unneeded” parts. I’d suggest getting a good service manual, or a detailed exploded view of all the parts and order they go in, and see if anything is missing or damaged.