Former NFL players live longer than the general population

Tuesday, June 18th, 2019

Former NFL players live longer than the general population:

One study from 2012 found that NFL players had overall decreased mortality as well as lower cardiovascular mortality than the general population. Another paper that year also found that overall mortality in NFL players was reduced, but did find that they had rates of neurodegenerative mortality that were three times higher than the general population.

They don’t live longer than other athletes, though:

Researchers looked at data from the NFL cohort, which was a database constructed by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in the ’90s and contains information on former players who participated in at least five seasons between 1959 and 1988. Weisskopf and colleagues then generated a comparable dataset for former MLB players. By then matching the 3,419 NFL players and the 2,708 MLB players to the National Death Index — which contains records and causes of deaths of U.S. citizens — the researchers compared mortality rates between the two groups.

The new work found that NFL players were about 2.5 times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease and almost three times more likely than MLB players to die from neurodegenerative disease.


Among the NFL players in the study, far more died of cardiovascular disease than neurodegenerative disease: nearly 500 versus 39, respectively.


  1. TRX says:

    “neurodegenerative mortality”

    That would seem to be Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and heavy drug use…

  2. Kirk says:

    These guys really need to have “correlation does not equal causation” on the inside of their eyelids, so they don’t forget it.

    You are dealing with a specifically and carefully selected subset of the population here, one whose utility as test subject is highly questionable. Once you factor in all the various things that might be affecting things with pro football players, this population is about useless for teasing any really useful data out of.

    Good grief, the prevalence of steroid use alone… The diets? The training regimens? All of the other things that go along with pulling these guys out of the general population and concentrating them in one field? Yeah. Too many wild-ass variables here to really tell you anything.

    It’s the same stuff that goes on with domestication–You select for certain traits, and there are obvious physical things that come along with those traits, even across species. Domestic dogs and domesticated foxes, for example? Similar coat patterns, and so forth.

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