Race in association with physical and mental health among former professional American-style football players: Findings from the Football Players Health Study

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Ann Epidemiol. 2020 Jul 29:S1047-2797(20)30273-8. doi: 10.1016/j.annepidem.2020.07.013. Online ahead of print.


PURPOSE: Race differences in health are pervasive in the United States. American-style football players are a racially diverse group with social status and other benefits that may reduce health disparities. Whether race disparities in health exist among former professional football players, and whether they differ by era of play, is unknown.

METHODS: We examined the association of self-reported race with health outcomes (e.g., physical and cognitive function, pain, depression and anxiety), among 3,747 participants in the Football Players Health Study, comprised of former National Football League (NFL) players who played since 1960. We conducted analyses stratified by age.

RESULTS: Black players had increased risk of all five adverse health outcomes versus white players (risk ratio (RR) range=1.36 to 1.89). Native Hawaiians and men of other races had greater risk of all health outcomes except impaired physical functioning, compared with white players (RR range=1.25 to 1.64). No clear patterns were observed by era of play. In general, race disparities were not accounted for by health-related exposures during playing years. Adjustment for current BMI somewhat attenuated associations.

CONCLUSIONS: Social and economic advantages of playing professional football did not appear to equalized race disparities in health.

PMID:32738401 | DOI:10.1016/j.annepidem.2020.07.013