Age at League Entry and Early All-Cause Mortality Risk Among NFL Players

Shane Sanders, Ph.D. (SPM) PI, Bhavneet Walia (PH) co-I, Brittany Kmush (PH) co-I, Justin Ehrlich (SPM) co-I
2020-2021 Falk Tenure-Track Assistant Professor Seed Grant Award and SHDI Seed Grant Recipient

Is age at entry associated with all-cause mortality among NFL players, after controlling for position-of-play cluster, career NFL game exposure, birth year, body mass index, entry year, and ability?

In this cohort study of 9,049 National Football League players, an earlier age at NFL entry was associated with a statistically significant increase in the hazard ratio of death controlling for position-of-play cluster, career NFL game exposure, BMI, birth year, and expected ability at League entry. The findings suggest that entering the NFL at a younger age is associated with an increase in the risk of all-cause mortality among professional American football players, ceteris paribus. Professional leagues such as the NBA have imposed a player entry age floor. Similarly, NFL policymakers have the ability to impose a direct, stringent NFL entry age floor to mitigate the observed mortality risks associated with a relatively early age at League entry.