• Jeffrey S. Markowitz
Part of the SpringerBriefs in Public Health book series (BRIEFSPUBLIC)


Accurate and comprehensive sports statistics that include player demographics and personal information on NBA and NFL players is now available at several Internet-sites. Increasingly, this data has been used as the basis of quality research efforts. Team roster information is available for all former NBA and NFL players that includes date of birth, height, weight and position. In addition, vital status data, including date of death within deceased players, are accessible. These and several other variables were entered into a database for the cohort of players who appeared on an NBA (n = 1398) or NFL (n = 7708) team roster anytime between 1960 and 1986.

All-cause mortality and its risk factors will be examined in this retrospective/historical cohort study. The exposure is playing participation in the NBA or NFL during the study period. Two measures of mortality will be analyzed in internal comparisons that use a vital status end-date of January 1, 2017: vital status, and time to death. A third mortality outcome, life expectancy, will be examined in multivariate analyses. The analysis of vital status, i.e., alive or dead, will be stratified by 8 year of birth categories. Controlling for year of birth, within-NBA and within-NFL players, as well as between-league survival analyses will be conducted that examine each of the potential mortality risk factor variables, first separately and then simultaneously. External analyses will compare mortality rates between NBA and NFL players versus the US general population using standardized mortality ratios.


Sports statistics and health research Retrospective cohort study Historical cohort study National Football League (NFL) players and mortality National Basketball Association (NBA) players and mortality Survival analysis of former NBA and NFL players 


  1. Alben, A. (2014, September 30). We have an unhealthy obsession with sports. The Seattle Times.
  2. Allison, P. D. (2010). Survival analysis using SAS: A practical guide (2nd ed.). Cary: SAS Institute Inc.Google Scholar
  3. Bengtsson, T., & Brostrom, G. (2009). Do conditions in early life affect old-age mortality directly and indirectly? Evidence from 19th century rural Sweden. Social Science and Medicine, 68(9), 1583–1590.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. CDC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2012). Principles of epidemiology in public health practice, Lesson 1, Section 6, Descriptive epidemiology. Retrieved from
  5. Cox, D. R., & Oakes, D. (1984). Analysis of survival data. New York: Chapman & Hall.Google Scholar
  6. (2017). Retrieved from
  7. Fox Sports (2016). Deaths from the sports world in 2016. Retrieved from
  8. Kubatko, J., Oliver, D., Pelton, K., & Rosenbaum, D. T. (2007). A starting point for analyzing basketball statistics. Journal of Quantitative Analysis Sports, 3, 1–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Lawler, T., Lawler, F., Gibson, J., & Murray, R. (2012). Does the African-American-white mortality gap persist after playing professional basketball? A 59-year historical cohort study. Annals of Epidemiology, 22, 406–412.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Los Angeles Times (2017). Obituaries database. Retrieved from
  11. Mandell, R. D. (1984). Sport: A cultural history (p. 192). New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Markowitz, J. S. (2016). Lost seasons: Arrests, suspensions, career chaos and mortality among National Football League (NFL) players. North Charleston: CreateSpace.Google Scholar
  13. Markowitz, J., & Markowitz, A. (2013). Pigskin crossroads: The epidemiology of concussions in the National Football League (NFL), 2010–2012 (J. S. Markowitz & A. Markowitz, eds.), North Charleston: CreateSpace.Google Scholar
  14. Newsday (2016). Notable sports deaths in 2016. Retrieved from December 29, 2016.
  15. SAS Institute Inc. (2017). SAS/BASE and SAS/STATS, Version 9.4. Cary: SAS Institute Inc.Google Scholar
  16. Sports Reference LLC (2017a). Sports reference. Retrieved from
  17. Sports Reference LLC (2017b). Basketball reference. Retrieved from
  18. Sports Reference LLC (2017c). NFL pro reference. Retrieved from
  19. Tributes (2017). Celebrity deaths in sports. Retrieved from
  20. Wikipedia (2017). List of basketball players who died during their careers. March 14, 2017. Retrieved from
  21. World Health Organization (W.H.O.) (2017). Global database on body mass index, located at:

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeffrey S. Markowitz
    • 1
  1. 1.Health Data AnalyticsPrinceton JunctionUSA

Personalised recommendations