The Top 5 Myths about NFL Players

Myth: “While U.S. life expectancy is 77.6 years, recent studies suggest the average for NFL players is 55.” Source: St. Petersburg Times

  • Fact: “A government study found a lower death rate among former NFL players than among men in the general population. Former players also had a lower rate of cancer-related deaths. And the rate of deaths from heart disease was lower, too.” Source: New York Times
  • Fact: “We found the players in our study had a much lower rate of death overall compared to men in the general population. This means that, on average, NFL players (77.5-year life expectancy) are actually living longer than men in the general population (74.7 years).” Source: National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Study (NIOSH)

Myth: “78% of all NFL players are divorced, bankrupt or unemployed two years after leaving the NFL.” Source: ESPN

  • Fact: The divorce rates for NFL retirees (age 30-49) are comparably lower to the divorce rates for the same segment of the general population (20 percent vs. 26 percent). NFL retirees are more likely to be currently married than other men in the general population. Source: University of Michigan Study of Retired NFL Players
  • Fact: NFL retirees have higher income than men of similar ages in the general population. Source: University of Michigan Study of Retired NFL Players

Myth: “Most pros never finish college, and the majority do little to prepare for the day when they venture into the real world.” Source: Business Week   

  • Fact: The overall college graduation rate of about 80 percent among retired NFL players is much higher than the general population rate of 30 percent. Source: University of Michigan Study of Retired NFL Players

Myth: “The suicide rate among former NFL players is six times the national average.” Source:

  • Fact: “When the NFLPA asked NIOSH to look at more than 3,000 retired league veterans, the researchers found nine suicides rather than the 22 they might have expected to find. NFL players commit suicide at less than half the rate of other American men.” Source: “The War on Football,” by Daniel Flynn
  • Fact: In relationship to the overall U.S. male population, NFL active/former players’ suicide rate, at 6.1 per 100,000 since 1987 and 12.5 per 100,000 since 2005 is below the US male suicide rate of 19.2 per 100,000 as documented in 2009.Source: Center for Disease Control (CDC) statistics; NFL research

Myth:“What do NFL owners care? To them, players aren’t people. They’re commodities to be bought and sold, acquired and released.” Source:

  • Fact: NFL owners have consistently (and voluntarily) strengthened the services and benefits available to retirees in renegotiations of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with active players over the past several decades.
    The landmark CBA agreed upon in 2011 by the NFL and NFL Players Association included additional funding of approximately $1 billion for retiree benefits. The largest single amount, $620 million, is being used for the Legacy Fund, which has increased pensions for pre-1993 retirees.
    A more complete list of services and benefits available to NFL retirees – from free health screenings to pension to career transition services – can be viewed here.