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Brynmaer t1_iznaxvr wrote

I think this interesting and is very much worth studying but playing football professionaly is labor intensive. I wonder what the findings would be if we isolate other labor intensive jobs as well like roofers or brick layers. Would we also find more high blood pressure, arthritis, and dementia?

Secondarily, we could look at the selection bias of professional football players. I would bet we would find that people who reach puberty at younger ages, have higher levels of certain hormones, are naturally taller/larger, and have more "early aging" traits in general may be favored in youth sports because of their earlier development and therefore more likely to play college and pro.

It could be a combo of the physical toll of the sport professionaly AND genetic selection bias of those more likely to play the sport.

Edit: Just finished reading the study and it's genuinely interesting. Hopefully studies like this can be used to find ways to mitigate prevalence of heath issues in the sport. In the end though, I feel that anyone competing in sport at the highest levels will likely find that pushing themselves physically that much is not the easiest path for their bodies. It's a trade-off.

They do acknowledge the possible impact of selection bias within the survey itself. "Third, we acknowledge the possibility of selection bias within the ASF cohort and cannot exclude the possibility that ASF players harbouring more illness may have been more likely to enroll."

Secondly, they acknowledge the impact of position within the sport showing that linemen have much higher reported issues than other positions.

They also acknowledge that it is a self reported survey which may introduce some skewing and that "race" and systemic racism may have a skewing effect. As well, they acknowledge the possible impact of related activities such as strength training, anti inflammatory drugs, and other possible drugs/ related activities.

They also acknowledge that other professional sports including hockey, soccer, and rugby also show increased rates of the selected conditions (but don't mention to what relative degree).


vtssge1968 t1_iznberv wrote

It's extraordinarily hard to separate factors in most health studies, I have always assumed this is why health studies are always coming out contradicting each other and what is supposedly healthy is constantly changing...


vtssge1968 t1_iznbva7 wrote

Genetic factors are often overlooked especially now as it's getting to be politically incorrect to say one nationality is more prone to something then another, I understand the reasoning to some extent, but people that have lived under certain environmental conditions have evolved differently to adapt.. this is most pronounced and is undeniable in certain more isolated populations in extreme environments. Look up Eskimos, and Aborigines.


naijaboiler t1_izng21u wrote

ancestry is scientifically valid. Race is not. Race is not ancestry.

Race is a social construct that is loosely based on ancestry, just as nationality is a political construct that is loosely based on ancestry and geography


vtssge1968 t1_izngwh1 wrote

Exactly my point, I never used the word race and someone immediately points this out, I said nationality which isn't precisely right either, but it has more to do with the region from where the ancestors came from...


IrrelevantPuppy t1_izqr7lq wrote

Exactly. Is it that they are very labor intensive jobs? Is it the lifestyle of a professional football player? Is it the concussions? Is it genetics that arise in correlation with other genetics that make you predisposed to be a good football player? Or is it the heavy steroid use?


nahtorreyous t1_iznnsxt wrote

I would bet it's their diet to maintain the 300+lbs. Most linemen drop significant amount of weight after their playing careers but the extra weight they carry for x amount of years has to take a toll.


SerialStateLineXer t1_iznopi3 wrote

It's worth noting that "early diabetes and hypertension" was driven entirely by the 25-29 age group. In older age groups, former football players had lower rates of diabetes and hypertension than the general population, and even lower rates of diabetes than former football players in the 25-29 bracket. This is possibly just a fluke, or, as you mentioned, driven by selection bias.

The more striking difference is the rates of arthritis and early onset dementia, which was large and consistent across all age groups. 2% of former football players had dementia in their 50s, but only 0.2% of the general population did. Both of these are very plausibly attributable to physical trauma experienced during play.

So I don't think there's any real mystery here. The elevated rate of diabetes and hypertension in the 25-29 group is probably spurious, while physical trauma explains the rest.


Brynmaer t1_iznpit4 wrote

Yeah. That's a striking difference that is unlikely to be purely reporting or selection bias. It would be interesting to further differentiate by position to try and narrow down the possible variables. Like, do punters see similar numbers? Do corners? There is so much speciation in football by position when it comes to body size and play style that it could yield some results that may help the game adjust to mitigate some things.


ineed_that t1_iznekcn wrote

I wonder how much of that is just due to high insulin resistance. That could explain the dementia, blood pressure , maybe even the supposed age related diseases. Those guys bulk like crazy and consume an insane amount of carbs and processed food. Exercise by itself can’t reverse that


Curious_Teapot t1_izokgzh wrote

I’m pretty sure dementia is the result of head injuries, not the level of exertion.Contact sports players are at higher risk of developing Lewy body disease, and as we know Lewy bodies are highly implicated in dementia. Lewy Body dementia is the second most common type of dementia after Alzheimer’s


Brynmaer t1_izpld1e wrote

Head injuries is not a bad supposition at all but that's why the science is being done.

Is dementia more common amongst ALL player or just certain positions?

Does being a larger person in general contribute to rates of dementia?

Are there other genetic factors that make someone more likely to be successful as a professional football player that also contribute to likelihood of dementia?

Are all head injuries more likely to lead to dementia or are there certain types that do? Are a handful of bigger hits to the head over a career more or less damaging than a lot of smaller head hits sustained consistently over a career?

Understanding all of the possible mechanisms can help inform players and possibly help tweak rules to mitigate the known risk factors through rule changes.


learningdesigner t1_izozc8u wrote

I haven't read the study, so hopefully you would know more about this. But, is obesity one of the main problems that this study is finding, or is it other stuff? My possibly incorrect though is that yeah, if you are obese and also practicing professional football every day, you are probably fine and healthy when it comes to diseases like diabetes. But once you stop doing labor intensive work everyday, those benefits might go away. At the end of the day, it is still unhealthy weight that affects a lot of this stuff.

Or, I could be very off base with that too.


Brynmaer t1_izpm6e1 wrote

I'm sure the large size of linemen is contributing to the worse outcomes they seem to experience in relation to the other positions. Larger people still have the same size joints and bones. Their cardiovascular system would have to grow to supply a larger body with enough oxygen. All of that can contribute to arthritis, high blood pressure, etc.

It seems like the study is mostly finding a generic link between playing a contact sport at a very high level and some advanced aging outcomes over time. They further find that linemen as a group are experiencing a larger proportion of those advanced aging outcomes relative to other positions.

They say that there could be many factors involved and that further study to isolate those factors is needed. This study simply makes a link between professional football and advanced aging on some areas related to health.


lsjunior t1_izozqzz wrote

Think biggest difference between other kabor intensive jobs and NFL lineman would be the eating habbits. General laborers arent trying to maintain a specific weight. Where lineman are usually consuming massive amounts of calories to maintain their playing weight. You see all the time a retired lineman a year or 2 after retirement and they have lost a significant amount of weight and its simply from they don't eat as much as they used to. I remember one story where a team wanted a tackle to gain 10 pounds. He said he would eat something over 7k calories. Late night snack would be a gallon of ice cream and he lost a half a pound over a week of training camp.


[deleted] t1_izn7q20 wrote

Because NFL players are much more massive compared to the average man.


PuckSR t1_iznz2k1 wrote

Yeah. And that massiveness also correlates to a much higher caloric need while they are athletes. So while an elite RB might need 4000 calories to maintain, a 320 lb lineman might need 5-6000 calories(out of my butt numbers for illustration purposes)

When those linemen end their careers, it is harder for them to adjust to a normal diet and many of them wind up being fat as hell. And unlike the RB who can just take up jogging after his career ends, their aren't many normal exercises that approximate 3 hours shoving around other 300lb men.

So, just from knowing former college and NFL linemen, they are typically obese very shortly after their careers end(or they may already be obese)


DjTrailer t1_izo82u2 wrote

I believe the caloric intake for a lineman is like 8000 calories a day. I heard an interview that they say it’s not even fun anymore. You have to eat at all hours of the day. He said he had to wake up at 2am and 5am to eat meals just to keep weight. It’s a chore.


PuckSR t1_izohhpp wrote

My brother and I were both linemen, he wound up playing D1. Just in HS, I remember once eating the following lunch: quart of milk, a loaf of French bread, and an 18 oz sirloin. A few hours later, I had a 44 oz malt milk shake, which I drank while lifting weights.


ZoqY t1_izpk7nu wrote

Yeah exactly. I feel they have so much money they might go out to eat a lot and eat bad. Tons of commentators that are old and used to play in the nfl and healthy still


PuckSR t1_izpyz8p wrote

I don't think that going "out to eat" is the problem. It is the fact that you go from an 8000 calorie lifestyle to a 2000 calorie lifestyle in a week


ZoqY t1_izpz7q2 wrote

Yeah people who put on muscle have bodies that adapted to high calorie diets. But also, I'm sure they are eating lots of high calorie foods


Atheos102 t1_izn8ygu wrote

perhaps we can compensate them with millions of dollars and hero worhsrip


Porkamiso t1_izn9eh8 wrote

Read the story this week on si about the former indianapolis middle linebacker.

These dudes live lives that are considered hellish


Wagamaga OP t1_izn5nge wrote

Former elite football players may age faster than their more average peers, a new study suggests.

NFL players, especially former linemen, had fewer disease-free years and earlier high blood pressure and diabetes diagnoses. Two age-related diseases, arthritis and dementia, were also more commonly found in former football players than in other men of the same age.

This research was part of the ongoing Football Players Health Study at Harvard University.

We wanted to know: Are professional football players being robbed of their middle age? Our findings suggest that football prematurely weathers them and puts them on an alternate aging trajectory, increasing the prevalence of a variety of diseases of old age," said senior investigator Rachel Grashow, director of epidemiological research initiatives for the Football Players Health Study.

"We need to look not just at the length of life but the quality of life," she said in a university news release. "Professional football players might live as long as men in the general population, but those years could be filled with disability and infirmity."


NotAnotherEmpire t1_iznnx5e wrote

Which is the opposite of what is usually seen in people who exercise frequently. Differences:

  1. Much heavier than average weight for height. Only speed positions are similar to other athletes.

  2. Violent contact sports.


rumora t1_izoa42e wrote

There is a huge difference between exercise and high level sports. Professional athletes push their bodies way beyond what is healthy and most of them use PEDs to push it even further. Your joints aren't made to sustain that much stress and the often serious PED use is going to wreak havoc on your organs.

And in the NFL, not only do you need particularly aggressive PED use to get as big and muscular as most of those guys are, but as you said, you add constant and incredibly violent trauma.


[deleted] t1_izn8fu5 wrote

This is why I’m not a big fan of Football. Besides head injuries, when half the team is incentivized to be unhealthier in order to play a certain position at a high level, I just can’t get behind that.

Soccer is why better for general health, and kids wouldbe better off playing that cot long term health than Football.


Yotsubato t1_iznvbew wrote

I’m a radiologist, I’ve seen too many pediatric knee and hip MRIs with serious ligamentous and meniscal injuries related to soccer. Many of these are permanent and “career” ending.

Competitive sports in general are not healthy for the body. Mild aerobic exercise (preferably swimming and cycling) and weight training is where it’s at.


[deleted] t1_izp90co wrote

This is true. Crosstraining gym/swimming/running/some climbing/yoga seems like a great recipe instead. Too much of any one movement is gonna create big imbalances over time.

Soccer might have some joint issues, knee problems, but I’d still be willing to bet it’s a lot healthier than football because football has all of those too, without the really poor cardio shape of 40% of the team.


Yotsubato t1_izpg7c4 wrote

As far as cardiac health and overall health, yes the soccer players have it better. But those knee injuries can lead to a spiral down to obesity/inactivity.


nahtorreyous t1_izno4hl wrote

>Soccer is why better for general health, and kids wouldbe better off playing that cot long term health than Football.

Look up soccer, hip injuries and CTE. You might be surprised.


[deleted] t1_izpbge6 wrote

I have no doubt a lot of injuries exist, but I’d imagine football has a lot of these too. And the longer term health problems from football are more of the insidious and difficult to pinpoint variety. I would imagine worse cardio and worse brain health.

Every soccer player I know that had injuries still is in good shape in their 50s and 60s, even if they have to do low impact exercise now. Can’t say the same for many football players.


dotnetdotcom t1_izndg02 wrote

If you're worried about injuries, skip sports altogether and take up the piano.


[deleted] t1_izp8is4 wrote

I can see you think in very simple black and white terms.

What I want are healthier sports all around, ones where kids are going to be in as healthy of a shape than they can reasonably be. Soccer has this keen advantage over Football. At the end of the day, 99.99% of kids don’t go professional in sports. That’s a lot of lineman who are now overweight, sitting on the couch, and a heart attack waiting to happen. Tens of thousands of families lose a father early, which leads to even more untold suffering. The amount of decisions we make that influence our health/environment are innumerable—and while this is only one example, even this affects the world around more than might think at first glance.

TLDR: A healthier world is a better world; choose futbol not football.


Trevor519 t1_iznfnd0 wrote

If I was a parent I didn't think I could in good concious let my children play football. I played just in high school and had conclusions and long term knee issues because of it. Basketball scoccer, track swimming tennis etc would be gentle push for sports


Mike_smith97 t1_izo48ga wrote

Tore my ACL playing football at ten years old. Completely destroyed sports for me growing up. My kids aren't playing football


TabulaRasaNot t1_izofufj wrote

Agreed. Played organized tackle football from 11 years old through high school. I often wonder how much smarter and more accomplished I would be had I not. I mean I'm not a neanderthal, but I'm not a brain surgeon either. :-(


Thediciplematt t1_izn755r wrote

Dementia makes sense with the head trauma but arthritis?


Porkamiso t1_izn9ba6 wrote

Excessive weight and repeated stress injuries combined with toradol abuse.


MxEverett t1_iznatpo wrote

Throw in years of heavy weight training.


TankSparkle t1_iznhlkr wrote

being large is unhealthy

Edit: "The premise that larger body size leads to reduction in lifespan longevity has generally been substantiated through scientific research over the past 40 years." For example, Samaras’ research suggests smaller body size is generally better for one’s health, and is supported by robust cross-cultural findings of average lifespan reduction with increasing height observed in groups such as deceased American male veterans [2], French males and females who died before the year 1861 [3, 4] and males born in Sardinia, Italy between 1866 and 1915 [5]. Thus, Samaras’ overarching conclusion suggests health practitioners should de-emphasize the association between wellbeing and increased height [6], despite this being somewhat counterintuitive to society’s belief of increased height being a by-product of a healthy lifestyle [7]. Nevertheless, the relationship between height and quality of life (particularly early to midlife) and eminence/higher social status may be less clear and different than the height-mortality link, where quality of life is more socially constructed and mortality is more biologically linked to health."


VectorCorrector t1_izni3nw wrote

Are they controlling for frame? I would think humans that large in general are more prone to diseases like this.


unclebigbadd t1_izp2xv5 wrote

Too much testosterone will kill you. Eventually.


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Opt33 t1_izo5zxp wrote

Could've told you that from the thumping these players get each game.


el_pinata t1_izoxuya wrote

When you professionally have to weigh 300 pounds and eat to maintain that, it's not easy on the body.


ZoqY t1_izpjv7w wrote

I'd like an analysis of post nfl diet though. A lot of nfl players come from poor backgrounds and end up eating bad diets and going out to eat a lot


bonkor t1_izpwwzq wrote

Also the gear they're using is a factor which takes toll on your body


babydavissaves t1_izomhjt wrote

I am so happy that all this research is going to aid .002% of the general population.