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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Mere Mortals: Comparing Mortality Rates in football and baseball

Grantland‘s Bill Barnwell finds that baseball players actually have a higher mortality rate than NFL players. Which, uh, I totally didn’t see coming. Then again, I’d be interested to see how the brain-related deaths and suicide rates are…

Gamingboy Posted: August 16, 2012 at 06:15 PM | 7 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: death, football, statistics

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   1. tjm1 Posted: August 16, 2012 at 08:07 PM (#4210033)
Surprising and interesting. I think it's probably pretty clear evidence that football hasn't traditionally increased the rate of early deaths.

I can see a few possible reasons for football coming out better than baseball:

(1) Latin American players - baseball has them, and football doesn't. The Latin American players in baseball often retire to countries with lower quality of health care than the US (or at least with lower quality of health care for wealthy people than the US).

(2) age distribution - the NFL expanded later than MLB, and the AFL doesn't seem to have been included. Also, MLB players tend to be 23-25 when they debut, rather than 21 as NFL players are. This doesn't seem to have been considered carefully. Also, the oldest players in the study debuted in the late 50's and early 60's. This was around the time of the first MLB expansion and the formation of the AFL. The formation of the AFL would have led to an increase in the relative number of young players in football. Baseball expansion led to older players getting a shot - the existence of the minor leagues meant that some of these guys kept playing baseball much longer than anyone keeps playing football who isn't in the NFL. The long tail of the age distribution of baseball players is almost certainly a much larger fraction of the total - and if the players must have debuted by 1959, that's a huge effect. A 25 year old in 1959 would be 78 now, meaning that normal life expectancy would make him likely to be dead by now. A 21-year old in 1959 would be only 74 now.

(3) pain - the article stated that football players are much more likely to suffer from arthritis and other chronic pain conditions. These probably in many cases cause them to visit their doctors more often than retired baseball players do, and that might lead to earlier intervention on more serious conditions.
   2. cardsfanboy Posted: August 16, 2012 at 08:24 PM (#4210040)
A study conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found that NFL players from the '60s, '70s, and '80s were dying far less frequently than men of similar ages and races from the general population.

They would have no reason to trump up the numbers......but the article does a great job of more or less verifying some of it. I wish the article would have at least included the average age of deaths, a grid showing the percentages of deaths within a certain time frame etc.

I mean, are football players like black males, maybe having a high percentage of young deaths(relative), but once they reach a certain point, they then have one of the longer lifespans? Heck the article never even mentions average life span.

Still a very good article, and what looks like a well put together study with the information available.
   3. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: August 16, 2012 at 08:59 PM (#4210065)
I can see a few possible reasons for football coming out better than baseball:

I can think of another possibility: rate of tobacco usage.

   4. zenbitz Posted: August 16, 2012 at 09:14 PM (#4210077)
Apparently steroids are better for you than speed.
   5. bigglou115 Posted: August 16, 2012 at 09:20 PM (#4210080)
Apparently steroids are better for you than speed.

I think we might actually have a winner.
   6. charityslave is thinking about baseball Posted: August 16, 2012 at 10:48 PM (#4210148)
The rate of death is skewed by a sub- population of players who pitched on teams coached by Dusty Baker.
   7. Sunday silence Posted: August 16, 2012 at 11:49 PM (#4210158)
the study could simply be one of those stories that is out there for a reason. The first post identified possible fallacy, that being the ages when these guys started. It's tell tale that the article doesnt mention life expectancy which I am pretty sure is much better for MLB players.

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