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Football Players Face Accelerated Aging

Findings show fewer years free of disease at all ages compared with the general population

By Lori Solomon HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Dec. 15, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Retired football players may experience accelerated aging, including higher prevalence of chronic diseases, compared with the general population, according to a study published online Dec. 7 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Rachel Grashow, Ph.D., from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, and colleagues compared age-specific, race-standardized, and body mass index-standardized prevalence ratios of arthritis, dementia/Alzheimer disease, hypertension, and diabetes among young and middle-aged (ages 25 to 59 years) male former professional football players (2,864 men) versus a matched nationally representative cohort identified from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and National Health Interview Survey.

The researchers found that arthritis and dementia/Alzheimer disease were more prevalent among football players across all study age ranges. Only among young football players (25 to 29 years) were hypertension and diabetes more prevalent. Compared with the general population, football players were less likely to show intact health span (years free of disease) across all age ranges.

“These data suggest the emergence of a maladaptive early aging phenotype among former professional American-style football players characterized by premature burden of chronic disease and reduced health span,” the authors write. “These results highlight the need to identify early adult and middle-aged players who may harbor cardiometabolic, orthopedic and neurocognitive disease to consider early pharmacological and behavioral interventions to improve morbidity and mortality.”

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