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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Harvard: NFL Players Die at Higher Rates Than MLB Players, But Heart Risks Loom Large for Both

National Football League (NFL) players appear to be at an elevated risk of death compared with Major League Baseball (MLB) players, according to new research led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School.

The study, published in JAMA Network Open, analyzed death rates and causes of death in 3,419 NFL players and 2,708 MLB players over the course of more than 30 years. The findings showed that while NFL players died of neurodegenerative diseases at a higher rate than MLB players, both groups of athletes were more likely to die of cardiovascular disease than brain diseases.

“There is so much press and buzz around the neurocognitive stuff, and that was one of the important things to come out of this,” said lead author Dr. Marc Weisskopf, Cecil K. and Philip Drinker Professor of Environmental Epidemiology and Physiology at Harvard Chan School, in a May 24 Stat article. “But for cardiovascular disease, the number was higher, and since it’s more common, let’s not lose sight of the fact that it’s a very important issue.”

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