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Racial Health Disparities Exist Among Pro Football Players

Former black players, those of other races report worse physical, mental health than white players

TUESDAY, Aug. 18, 2020 (HealthDay News) — Black and other nonwhite athletes report more pain, physical impairment, mood disorders, and cognitive problems than white peers, according to a study published online July 30 in Annals of Epidemiology.

Andrea L. Roberts, Ph.D., from Harvard University in Boston, and colleagues assessed whether race disparities in health exist among former professional football players and whether they differ by era of play. Self-reported race and health outcomes (e.g., physical and cognitive function, pain, depression, and anxiety) were assessed among 3,747 participants who played since 1960.

The researchers found that black players had an increased risk for all five adverse health outcomes compared with white players (risk ratio range, 1.36 to 1.89). Compared with white players, Native Hawaiians and men of other races had a greater risk for all health outcomes, except impaired physical functioning (risk ratio range, 1.25 to 1.64). There were no clear patterns by era of play. Racial disparities were not accounted for by health-related exposures during playing years. Some associations were attenuated when adjusting for current body mass index.

“Social and economic advantages of playing professional football did not appear to [equalize] race disparities in health,” the authors write.

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