Godfrey Myles, a former linebacker for the Dallas Cowboys during their great super bowl run, died at 42. He suffered a heart attack and stroke that led to his death. Godfrey spent only six years in the NFL until moving into the business world.
Whenever this happens the inevitable question comes up, “Why do football players die young?”
The answer is that they don’t die young when looked at the population in general. Godfrey was 42 years of age and statistically his death isn’t outside the norm as heart disease is the number one cause of death for males 35-44.
Still, there have been a number of statistical studies done on former NFL players and mortality. There are two of note:
CDC 1994 – The CDC looked at the mortality rates of NFL players. It found the following:
- Overall death rate for NFL players was lower than average.
- Heart disease risks were higher for offensive and defensive linemen.
- NFL players were at a decreased risk of dying due to violence.
- Cancers death rates were the same as the rest of the population.
Overall this was good news for NFL players.
2006 by Scripps Howard – This study looked at updated figures and was requested by the NFL Player’s Association. The following was found:
- If you look at all the players who played since 1955, 1 in 69 is dead.
- Of those who died, 22% had heart disease and 19% were suicide.
- 77% of those with heart disease were obese.
- 56 percent of all players on NFL rosters are obese.
There was another study showing that former professional football players are more likely to die than baseball players.
So, even though it seems more NFL players die than normal people it isn’t true. They do have an increased risk of death compared to other sports.