In traditional cohort studies, a noxious exposure may be directly related to an outcome of interest. In this exposure-response scenario, the more exposure, the greater the health risk. Alternatively, there could be aspects of an exposure that help to reduce risk. For example, NBA and NFL players earn relatively high salaries while playing professional sports that increase their SES, and in turn, may have beneficial health effects. This chapter will assess the role of playing experience in the NBA and NFL and the risk of mortality.
Exposure to professional basketball and football is measured by the total number of years played in the NBA or NFL. Players are assigned to one of the following categories: 1–2 years, 3–5 years, 6–9 years, and 10 or more years.
Survival analysis indicates that within NBA players, years of experience and mortality risk are inversely related. In fact, players with 10 or more years of NBA playing experience have a significant 35% decreased risk of mortality compared to those with 1–2 years of experience. There’s no such inverse relationship within NFL players, although the risk of mortality is identical between NFL players with the most and least experience. There’s no significant difference between the NBA and NFL on mortality risk when year of birth and years of experience are controlled.
These preliminary results provide no support for an exposure-response hypothesis. Instead, lengthier NBA careers, that typically coincide with higher earnings, is related to mortality protection.
KeywordsYears of playing experience and mortality within former NBA and NFL players Exposure-response Protective effect of years of playing experience Inverse relationship between years of playing experience and mortality Years of playing experience in the NBA/NFL and income NBA and NFL salaries
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