Athletes in Major League Baseball (MLB) tend to live about 24% longer than the average American guy, according to a century’s worth of mortality rates among nearly 10,500 pro baseball players.
What’s more, baseball players appear to have a lower death rate than National Football League (NFL) players when it comes to neurodegenerative diseases and heart conditions, said senior researcher Marc Weisskopf. He is a professor of environmental epidemiology and physiology with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in Boston.
“My first suspicion is that they’re relatively spared from head injuries compared with some other sports,” Weisskopf said. “That is something we absolutely think deserves more explanation.”
But it’s not that surprising that professional baseball players tend to outlive average men, Weisskopf said.
“Obviously, people who go on to be professional athletes are much healthier to begin with, and there are a lot of healthy things they have to do to maintain that level of professional play,” Weisskopf said.
For this study, Weisskopf and his colleagues analyzed death statistics for MLB players who debuted between 1906 and 2006.
Compared with U.S. males, MLB players had lower rates of death from:
The researchers also found that the more years MLB players spent playing, the lower their death rates were, on average, compared to other players, Weisskopf said.
Baseball players’ death rates due to neurodegenerative causes — dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease) — were about the same as the general public, the statistics showed.
However, baseball players have lower rates of neurodegenerative deaths than players in either football or soccer, based on earlier studies, Weisskopf said.
For example, NFL players are three times more likely to die from neurodegenerative diseases and twice as likely to die from heart-related diseases as MLB players, according to a previous study.