Reduced death rates of elite Australian Rules footballers compared to age-matched general population

Reduced death rates of elite Australian Rules footballers compared to age-matched general population.

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Item Type: Article
Status: Published
Official URL:
Journal or Publication Title: Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport
Volume: 25
Number: 9
Page Range: pp. 710-714
Date: September 2022
Divisions: Molecular Cardiology
Depositing User: General Admin
Identification Number: 10.1016/j.jsams.2022.08.003
ISSN: 14402440
Date Deposited: 17 Apr 2023 00:03

Objectives: To determine age-matched death rates of current and retired elite male Australian football players (Australian and/or Victorian Football League) with the general population.

Design: Analysis of publicly-available birth, debut and death data for all Australian Victorian Football/Victorian Football League players who debuted prior to (and were still alive at) the start of 1971 or debuted 1971-2020.

Methods: Wikipedia was used to source the dates of death (or record that the player was alive in 2021) for the cohort. New players became part of the cohort for analysis on debut and existing cohort members left it at death. Actual death rates (per year and per decade) were then compared to expected deaths, based on age-specific population death rates.

Results: There were 5400 players and ex-players in the cohort at the start of 1971 (average age 47.3) and a further 4532 players debuted between 1971 and 2020 inclusive (a total of 9932 players). The expected deaths for the cohort in this 50-year period were 4955, but only 3914 deaths occurred (Standardized Mortality Ratio 0.79, 95 %CI 0.76-0.82). For younger members of the cohort (age <50) the discrepancy between expected (222) and actual (98) deaths was also significant (Standardized Mortality Ratio 0.44, 95 %CI 0.35-0.56).

Conclusions: We conclude that the death rates of elite male Australian footballers are lower than the reference general population, similar to other studies of elite athletes. Some of this may be explained by "healthy cohort" selection bias, a limitation which affects almost all studies in this genre.

Keywords: Athletes; Australia; Life expectancy; Sport.

Orchard, John W.
Orchard, Jessica J.
Semsarian, Chris
La Gerche, Andre
Driscoll, Timothy
Last Modified: 17 Apr 2023 00:03

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