Government research into a group of retired NFL players showed they had a lower suicide rate than men in the general population. The study also noted it contained significant shortcomings.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health studied a group of retired players who played for a minimum of five years from 1959 to 1988, according to ESPN. The research found that there were 12 suicides out of 3,439 former players between 1979 and 2013. As ESPN wrote, "Suicide rates in the general population suggest 25 suicides would have been expected for men of comparable age."
It's worth noting that the study did not use any concussion or CTE data. So, the research doesn't indicate if former players with CTE had a higher suicide rate than those without CTE or the general population. That's a significant shortcoming of the study, as the suicides of players who were diagnosed with CTE (like Junior Seau) have led to an important discussion about the dangers and negative consequences of football.
Recently, the NFL admitted that a link between CTE and football does, in fact, exist. NFL owners -- Jerry Jones, in particular -- spoke out against that statement, though. A study published in September by Frontline found that 87 of 91 deceased NFL players had CTE.
According to USA Today, the study also acknowledged other shortcomings of the research. For instance, it did not consider players who suffered from "significant psychological impairments." It also warned against drawing "reliable conclusions" from the data.
"Clearly, our one study does not resolve the issue of suicide in football," the study said, per USA Today. "Before reliable conclusions can be drawn on any relationship among football play, concussion, CTE, and suicide, more work needs to be done in several areas: (1) quantitatively assessing football-related risk factors, particularly in collecting valid concussion data; (2) collecting longitudinal non-football related suicide risk factor data, including the existence and prevalence of recurring pain among current and retired players; and (3) analysis of how the higher income and socioeconomic profile of professional football players compared to the general population positively or negatively affects suicide risk."
The results of the study, published online last week, will be printed in the American Journal of Sports Medicine in September, ESPN reported.