There has been a lot of talk about the safety of NFL players, concussions, and the longterm effect playing the game of football has on players lives. This was brought back to the forefront with the death of 12-time Pro Bowl linebacker Junior Seau, who took his own life with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest. This put the focus back on player safety and long term health.
Concerns about long term health is now back in the headlines and in discussions, but a recent study seems to show that NFL player's actually don't die as early as once thought. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) conducted a study on mortality rates of NFL players. NIOSH conducted a records-based study of 3,439 retired players with at least five seasons of service between 1959 and 1988.
The results weren't what most expected.
To the surprise of many, the results showed that retired NFL players actually lived longer than the general population of American men of a similar age and racial mix.
In January, NIOSH published a follow-up to the 1994 study that was published in the American Journal of Cardiology. In the study done in 1994, they anticipated 189 deaths based on estimates from the general population. As of 1991, only 103 of the players had died. The follow-up study done recently anticipated 625 deaths among players, but only 334 deaths had occurred.
There were some things that increased among NFL players in the mortality study, including increased risk of death from heart disease. Players considered "obese" (BMI of 30+) during their playing days had twice the risk of death from heart disease.
The study as a whole is fascinating. If you want to read more about it, SB Nation's Ryan Van Bibber (who also runs the Rams blog Turf Show Times) was able to do an interview with the Center for Disease Control doctor who authored the mortality study. You can read the entire article/interview here.