In a study conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) of 3,439 ex-NFL players, 334 had died. These players had been in the NFL for at least five years and were selected from the years of 1959-1988. The participants were studied through 2007.
During the same period of time, a population of the same size had an estimated anticipation of 625 deaths. Here’s a couple interesting tidbits from the ESPN article on it:
The study is a follow-up to a 1994 report the institute did at the request of the players’ union to “investigate concerns that players were dying prematurely.” The latest findings, which contradict that idea, were published earlier this year in the American Journal of Cardiology and on NIOSH’s blog. The NFL sent a newsletter from NIOSH about the study’s finding to about 3,200 pre-1993 retired players on Tuesday…
The latest study found that players had a much lower rate of cancer-related deaths, with 85 dying from the disease as opposed to a projected 146 based on estimates from the general population. One reason for that could be low levels of smoking among athletes, but NIOSH did not attempt to contact former players about their smoking habits.
Larger players, particularly defensive linemen, had a higher level of deaths from heart disease, 41 as opposed to an expected 29. There were 498 defensive linemen studied.
Offensive and defensive linemen, of course, are likely to have a higher body mass index, a measuring factor for obesity.
Those are some pretty interesting numbers, though they’re what I’d suspect. NFL players have to take very good care of their bodies to stay in the NFL and keep those paychecks coming. Their bodies are well-oiled machines and as such, are in much better condition than the average person. Here’s the last couple interesting parts:
Overall, though, the study showed that the risk of players dying of heart disease was lower than the general population, with 126 deaths while the anticipated number was 186…
NIOSH also is studying neurological causes of death among the NFL players, including Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s and ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease).
The neurological study is the one I’m really wanting to see. There’s a lot to learn in that area and obviously it’s one of the biggest current issues swirling around the NFL with all these safety questions. I wouldn’t hold my breath for that to be released anytime soon though….
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