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CDC Study Finds Retired NFL Players No More Likely to Commit Suicide Than General US Population, Which Commits Suicide A lot

12 of the 3,439 players studied committed suicide, less than half that of the U.S. population.
May 10, 2016, 9:15pm

Retired NFL players are no more likely to commit suicide than the general population, according to a new study by the CDC, which will appear in the May issue of the American Journal of Sports Medicine.

The topic of suicide among former NFL players has been particularly prevalent since brain trauma became a national conversation, especially after the deaths of Dave Duerson and Junior Seau. While head trauma has had profound effects on many former players, it doesn't seem like suicide is one of them.

In the CDC's study, researchers found that, of the 3,439 retired players with at least five full seasons of NFL experience, the rate of suicide was less than half that of the comparable U.S. population based on gender, age, and race; 12 of the 3,439 players committed suicide. Neither black nor white players were disproportionately represented amongst the 12 players. Douglas Trout, Deputy Director of the Division of Surveillance, Hazard Evaluations and Field Studies at NIOSH, said more studies need to be done to fully understand the relationship between head trauma and suicide.

These results mostly confirm what we already know: there is no good statistical evidence that concussions lead to suicide. Head trauma is a multifactorial health issue that impacts all forms of cognitive functioning. With proper care and treatment, it is very unlikely to lead to serious mental health problems.

On the other hand, it's worth pointing out that the "control" population in this case, the general U.S. population, is presently experiencing a soaring suicide rate. In almost any way that can be measured, the American healthcare system is deplorable at dealing with mental health issues. The fact that NFL players don't commit suicide more often than the general population addresses one concern, but the bigger problem remains, and is much harder to address.