Mortality Comparisons Between NBA and NFL Players Versus the General Population

  • Jeffrey S. Markowitz
Part of the SpringerBriefs in Public Health book series (BRIEFSPUBLIC)


Heretofore, all analyses in this book have focused on internal comparisons within and between former players in the NBA and NFL. This chapter contains external analyses that compare mortality rates within the two groups of professional athletes versus the US general population. The scientific literature on mortality comparisons between elite athletes and the general population is reviewed. Previous research consistently documents mortality advantages for different types of elite athletes including NBA and NFL players.

Based on 2012 US life table data, two reference groups are selected, including white and African-American US males 20 years of age and older. Standardized mortality ratios (SMRs) with 95% confidence intervals are calculated separately for white and African-American NBA and NFL players using 10-year age strata, i.e., 20–29 years, 30–39 years, 40–49 years … etc.).

All four SMR comparisons between the professional athlete groups and the general population indicate significantly lower mortality rates within white as well as African-American NBA and NFL players (p’s < 0.0001). SMRs are 0.42 for NBA African-Americans and 0.56 for NBA whites, and about 0.5 for the two groups of NFL players. In brief, compared to age- and race- adjusted general populations, mortality rates within NBA and NFL players are far lower.

These results are consistent with the elite athlete mortality literature including several studies specifically focused on NBA and NFL players.


Death rate comparisons with general population Significantly lower death rates within NBA and NFL players Standardized mortality ratio (SMR) Elite athletes and mortality Age and race adjusted death rates Reference group selection for general population comparisons 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeffrey S. Markowitz
    • 1
  1. 1.Health Data AnalyticsPrinceton JunctionUSA

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