NFL: Study says former players live longer
Defensive lineman Shawn Lee (98) of the San Diego Chargers in a 1995 file photo. Lee died in 2011 of a heart attack at the age of 44. / Getty Images
(CBS/AP) NEW YORK - The NFL is telling retirees about a medical study that says former players live longer than men in the general population.
While player safety issues related to brain trauma and other football-related injuries dominate the headlines, the study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found 334 deceased men in a sampling of 3,439 former NFL players. Estimates for the general population anticipated 625 deaths.
Players in the study participated at least five seasons from 1959 through 1988. Causes of death such as cancer and heart disease were areas of concentration.
NIOSH is also studying neurological causes of death among the NFL players in the study, including Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's and ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease).
CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman obtained a four-page summary of the study, which was included in a letter to players who retired before 1993.
Freeman notes that the study concluded that defensive linemen had a 42 percent higher risk of death due to heart disease compared to men in the general population but all other positions -- including offensive linemen -- had a lower risk of dying compared to general population.
"The study is indeed propagandic, but it includes some extremely interesting data about the lives of NFL players once they leave the game," Freeman writes. "The information is also released at a critical time as the death of Junior Seau and the litany of concussion lawsuits are some of the most talked about issues in sports. This is information that will be digested and debated for months in NFL circles."NFL faces new concussion lawsuit by more than 100 ex-players
The study also comes as some NFL players have said they'd rather their children not play the game in light of the risk of serious injury. On Tuesday, Giants star defensive end Osi Umenyiora tweeted that he would try to steer his son away from football, adding that there was a "strong chance" that he would be "in a wheelchair" by the time he is 45.
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