Life and Death Statistics
Before proceeding to an examination of mortality risk factors within and between former NBA and NFL players, it’s important to analyze the key life and death statistics that will serve as the foundation for these analyses. For all players in the study cohort, year of birth is one such variable. For players who are still alive, descriptive statistics for their age (as of January 1, 2017) will be provided, and for those who have died, their age at death will be analyzed and compared.
On average, NFL players were born about 2 years earlier (median = 1950) than NBA players (median = 1952). As of the vital status end-date, a total of 233 of the 1398 NBA players (16.7%) have passed away compared to 1374 of 7708 NFL players (17.8%). These percentages, however, are crude since they do not control for year of birth or other critical risk factor variables. In fact, the percentage of players who have died is numerically higher for NBA players within seven of the 8 year of birth categories. In addition, age at death within players who have died is more than 3 years younger for NBA players (median = 60 years) compared to their NFL counterparts (median = 63.2 years). In within-league survival analyses, year of birth category and mortality are inversely related within NFL players, but surprisingly, not within NBA players.