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July 27, 2023

We examined trends in player position and race by relying on a unique data set documenting race, position, and career length on more than 20,000 NFL players who played from 1960 to 2020.

While changes in the racial makeup in the NFL over the past several decades have been widely known and discussed, this is the first time evidence based on data from NFL players has been published.

June 27, 2023

CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, is an established brain disease linked to repeated brain trauma. Currently, there isn’t a diagnostic test available to confirm whether a living person has CTE; it can only be diagnosed after death.

Our results call into question whether this tracer can and should be used to diagnose or study CTE in living players. More research is needed to examine this and other tracers for diagnosing CTE through scans.

June 15, 2023

We know that race and ethnicity are factors that contribute to differences in pain experiences. For example, research has shown that people of color who experience pain are often under-treated.

Our researchers looked at the biological, psychological, and social factors (also called biopsychosocial factors) that impact how former players experience pain.

February 15, 2023

While we know there are several risk factors for hypertension, including smoking, weight gain, diabetes, aging, and identifying as Black, the link between concussion during NFL play and later-life hypertension is unknown.

Using a survey of 4,168 former NFL players, we asked about concussion symptoms during NFL play, lifestyle factors (e.g., smoking, body mass index or BMI), and current health conditions such as hypertension and diabetes.

December 8, 2022

Have you ever felt older than your actual age? Former players define their age not only by the number of years they have been alive but also by the way their bodies feel. Despite their long lifespans, are football players experiencing early aging and living with illness and disability for more years than non-football players?

Our researchers and health practitioners examined the occurrence of four chronic diseases in 2,864 former players under the age of 60, including arthritis, dementia/Alzheimer’s Disease, hypertension, and diabetes. Additionally, we used a concept called healthspan, which categorized players into unafflicted (free from any of the four conditions) or afflicted (self-reported at least one of the conditions studied).

March 9, 2021

Research has shown that a strong personal social network can have remarkable benefits for one’s health and quality of life.

Those who experience chronic illness or brain trauma see reductions in the size of their networks, which can exacerbate their existing health problems. Larger personal networks actually help to mitigate the damage brought on by brain trauma and chronic illness.

November 13, 2020

With increased age and/or repeated stress on a joint over time, the connective tissue of the joint can become inflamed or wear away, which can cause pain and a change in mobility and function, requiring surgery. Whatever the cause, many athletes are at a higher risk of a joint replacement given the many sport-specific strains on the body’s joints.

Compared to other populations of former athletes, our cohort of former football players reported a higher percentage of knee replacements as compared to former soccer players, former rugby players, and even other cohorts of former football players.

September 14, 2020

Major differences in common diseases are often found between racial groups in the general public. Men who have played professional football at the highest level are obviously not the general public, and there are reasons to expect that among this elite group disparities would not exist.

Despite having access to social conditions that may be considered as advantages, such as higher median income, healthcare access, college education, and expert exercise regimens, race-associated disparities were present in former players—reflecting the presence of disparities in the general population.

May 12, 2020

CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, is a real condition that can be diagnosed only after a person passes away because scientists and doctors have yet to definitively tie symptoms in living players to changes in brain imaging.

Living former players with CTE diagnoses were more likely to report sleep apnea, diabetes, hypertension, and other conditions that independently cause cognitive problems. Read more about steps former players can take when discussing symptoms with their physicians, as well as other resources for improving cognitive health today.

September 5, 2019

This study is the first to explore the interplay between career length, position, and cognitive and mental health outcomes among professional football players.

Our analysis of 3,500 former NFL players looked at individuals’ current cognitive and mental health alongside the specific NFL career exposures using the self-reported health and playing data. Former players who reported more concussion symptoms during their NFL playing years (loss of consciousness, disorientation, nausea, etc.) were significantly more likely to report having cognitive impairment, depression, and anxiety later in life.

August 28, 2019

While we are conducting several studies to examine how concussions may affect brain health, we are also exploring how head trauma can impact other key areas of former player health.

Former players who sustained more concussion symptoms during their playing years were more likely to experience erectile dysfunction (ED) later in life, have a greater likelihood of being diagnosed with low testosterone, and other health conditions may increase former players’ risk for ED and low testosterone.

March 20, 2019

ACL tears frequently occur during the football playing years and may have important implications for long-term health.

Our analysis of 3,500 former players indicates that those who sustained ACL tears may be at an increased risk for health problems later in life, particularly heart attacks, knee replacements, and arthritis.

March 19, 2019

Our research indicates that former players who experienced substantial weight gain between high school football and professional play may be at a higher risk for later-life disease

While past research has demonstrated the consequences of post-career weight gain, this is the first study to show that play-related weight gain may be harmful to former players, regardless of the player’s present-day weight.