1. In this retrospective cohort study, there was an increased prevalence of age-, race-, and body mass index (BMI)-adjusted cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, and neurodegenerative diseases in former professional American-style football (ASF) players compared to the general population.

2. Additionally, the proportion of individuals without any chronic diseases was lower in former ASF players compared to the general population.

Evidence Rating Level: 2 (Great)

Participation in American-style football (ASF) has been shown to have several health consequences. Participants have been noted to develop vascular, cognitive, endocrine, and neurological conditions following their playing years. However, the mechanisms underpinning these multiorgan repercussions are poorly understood. As a result, the objective of the present study was to investigate the impact of playing professional ASF on chronic disease burden.

Of 4174 individuals from the Football Players Health Study (FPHS), 2864 former ASF players ages 25-59 who played after 1960 were included in the study. The former players filled out a survey regarding playing career, demographics, and chronic disease. The general population cohort was taken from two surveys: the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES; n=1481) from 2015-2018 and the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS; n=6298) from 2019. Statistical analyses were performed using standardized prevalence rates for age, race, and body mass index. The primary outcome was the prevalence of chronic disease.

The results demonstrated that several chronic medical conditions including, arthritis and dementia/Alzheimer’s, were higher among former ASF players than the general population across all age groups. Furthermore, the prevalence of individuals with no chronic diseases was significantly lower among ASF players compared to the general population. However, the study was limited by self-reported data which may have introduced inaccurate reporting. Nonetheless, these results provide further evidence that participation in professional ASF may increase the risk of chronic disease in an individual’s future.

Click to read the study in British Journal of Sports Medicine

Image: PD

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