In the Journals

Study: NFL players who played at least 5 seasons at no greater risk of suicide vs general US population

Compared with the general United States population, retired National Football League players who played at least 5 seasons were at no greater risk of suicide, according to results of this study.

Researchers categorized 3,439 retired National Football League (NFL) players into either speed positions (such as quarterback, fullback, running back and wide receiver) or into non-speed positions (including all defensive and offensive linemen positions). The investigators calculated the suicide death rate for players who played at least five seasons between 1959 and 1988. These players were compared with the suicide death rate for gender-, race- and age-matched individuals from the general U.S. population, according to researchers.

Results showed 537 NFL participants were deceased as of December 2013. Researchers found a significantly lower rate of overall mortality and mortality from cancer, heart disease and assault/homicide than expected. Compared with the U.S. population, results showed participants in the NFL cohort had a significantly reduced risk of mortality from suicide (25.6 vs. 12). While researchers found a significantly reduced rate of suicide among individuals in the speed position cohort vs. the general U.S. population, this difference was not significantly reduced when compared with individuals in the non-speed position cohort, according to results. Researchers noted a comparable percentage of suicide deaths among white (58%) and black (42%) NFL players and among white (59%) and black (41%) individuals of the general population. Overall, 42% of the suicide deaths were among players who first played in the 1980s, according to results. – by Casey Tingle

Disclosure: This study was fully supported by funding from the U.S. government to the CDC and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Compared with the general United States population, retired National Football League players who played at least 5 seasons were at no greater risk of suicide, according to results of this study.

Researchers categorized 3,439 retired National Football League (NFL) players into either speed positions (such as quarterback, fullback, running back and wide receiver) or into non-speed positions (including all defensive and offensive linemen positions). The investigators calculated the suicide death rate for players who played at least five seasons between 1959 and 1988. These players were compared with the suicide death rate for gender-, race- and age-matched individuals from the general U.S. population, according to researchers.

Results showed 537 NFL participants were deceased as of December 2013. Researchers found a significantly lower rate of overall mortality and mortality from cancer, heart disease and assault/homicide than expected. Compared with the U.S. population, results showed participants in the NFL cohort had a significantly reduced risk of mortality from suicide (25.6 vs. 12). While researchers found a significantly reduced rate of suicide among individuals in the speed position cohort vs. the general U.S. population, this difference was not significantly reduced when compared with individuals in the non-speed position cohort, according to results. Researchers noted a comparable percentage of suicide deaths among white (58%) and black (42%) NFL players and among white (59%) and black (41%) individuals of the general population. Overall, 42% of the suicide deaths were among players who first played in the 1980s, according to results. – by Casey Tingle

Disclosure: This study was fully supported by funding from the U.S. government to the CDC and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.