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Study: NFL players more likely than MLB players to die from heart, brain problems
A study published Friday found that people who had played in the NFL had higher rates of cardiovascular and neurodegenerative-related deaths than people who had played MLB.
The study, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, focused on 3,419 NFL players and 2,708 MLB players who played for at least five seasons and whose deaths had occurred between January 1, 1979, and December 31, 2013.
It found 517 NFL deaths at an average age of 59.6 and 431 MLB deaths at an average age of 66.7.
"This study found that NFL players had elevated all-cause, cardiovascular, and neurodegenerative mortality rates compared with MLB players, although the absolute number of excess neurodegenerative deaths was still small," the researchers concluded.
They noted that they did not have information on certain risk factors for such illnesses including genetics, family history, or lifestyle and environmental risk factors.
The researchers determined based on their study that in hypothetical populations of 1,000 NFL and MLB athletes followed up to 75 years of age, the NFL players would have 21 more all-cause deaths, 77 more cardiovascular-contributed deaths and 11 more neurodegenerative-contributed deaths.
The researchers noted in the study that their results might be limited to athletes who played in past years "because there have been changes in sports characteristics over time, such as helmet use, training regimen, and smoking prevalence."