I saw in the news today that Bobby Thomson, who hit the “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” in 1951 to win the National League pennant for the New York Giants, passed away on Monday night at the age of 86.
Have you ever noticed how baseball players regularly live into their 80s and 90s, while football players are often dead before they reach 60?
Apparently, so has the NFL.
Over the past few years several reports have come out stating that the average lifespan of a player in the National Football League is only 55 years (some reports say 52 years!), fully 22 years less than that of the typical male American. And the statistics seem to be getting worse as the size of the players increase.
A Scripps Howard News Service report from 2006 studied the 130 players born after 1955 who had died before turning 50. 22% of the deaths came about from heart disease, but shockingly, nearly as many players died from murder and suicide. The study concluded that football players are twice as likely to die before the age of 50 than baseball players.
The news gets worse for the biggest footballers. For most of the period of this study, it was rare to find a player larger than 300 pounds. Today it is very common, with over 500 players on NFL rosters weighing in at over three-bills. One study said that NFL linemen, who comprise nearly all the 300-plus-pounders, have a 52% greater risk of dying prematurely than the average American male.
The typical NFL player only has a career lasting 3.52 seasons, and on average they lose 2-3 years of life expectancy for every year they play in the league. (Of course, this isn’t true for everyone. Using the same formula, Brett Favre should have been dead a couple of decades ago.)
So when you figure in all the injuries, pain, stress, and shortened lifespan a career in the NFL promises, with only a $1.3 million bump over the average American’s lifetime earnings, maybe that gig at Walmart doesn’t sound so bad.