Does Anyone Even Remember This Study?

May 7, 2012

EDITOR’S NOTE: Thurs. May 9, 2012 10:40 pm PST
Uploaded complete 896-page study to Scribd ; go to bottom of this post to read.
How many of you even remember that way back in 1991, the Dept. of Health & Human Services sent out questionnaires to a large group of us retired NFL football players who played professionally since 1959? The study was to verify or counter a popular belief at the time that retired football players had shorter life spans. Like myself, many of you have also confirmed that you were told years ago to take your pensions early as you would not survive past the age of 55. It meant that your pension checks were discounted for taking early retirement but – based on a false interpretation of a so-called law by management that included those at the highest levels – it also disqualified those who took their pensions from receiving disability benefits as well. You can read about how Gene Upshaw had his words handed back to him in this early article from Michael Leahy in the Washington Post (Feb. 2008): Click HERE to read that article with attorney Lanny Davis’ answer. You can also read about how even Johnny Unitas was cheated out of his earned – and badly-needed – disability benefits by his own Union: Click HERE to read that post.
Here’s a copy of the original letter from HHS in 1991. (We uploaded a copy of the original letter as well as the recent correspondence to Scribd for viewing and to make it downloadable. You can also click the Fullscreen button to enlarge it for easier navigation – just hit the EXIT FULLSCREEN button key to close):
1991 Dept HHS Letter RE: NFL Football Players
Dept of HHS NFL Study
What’s not covered in this study that took over 20 years to complete? Concussions, brain injuries and long-term effects. While some of us may be happy to now hear that we’re going to be living longer, for too many of our families already seeing the memory loss and symptoms of dementia in many of you, this means that you may end up in need of longer assisted care than the average male. Small pensions, little or no access to disability benefits and the prospect of expensive long-term care for those with declining mental capacity. Sounds like one more heads-we-win-tails-you-lose proposition from the NFLPA and the NFL. Again.
May 9, 2012 • Here’s the entire 896-page study from the NIOHS:
Complete NIOHS NFL Study

6 Responses so far | Have Your Say!

  1. Don Horn
    May 7th, 2012 at 6:19 pm #

    Don Horn

    I sure as heck remember!

    I was also told at that time the average life span of an NFL vet was 54.5 years!

    Don Horn
    Green Bay Packers, Denver Broncos,
    Cleveland Browns, San Diego Chargers
    1967 – 1974

  2. Greg Davis
    May 7th, 2012 at 11:18 pm #

    Greg Davis

    It is an easy study to complete: Just find a life insurance actuary. I played 12 seasons in the NFL comprised of 12 teams with on average 55-60 personnel on each team. My composite core group of professional football players I ran across in any given year was a maximum of 100 (generous) co-workers in any given season due to trade cuts, taxi squad, inactive injured reserve and so forth. So let’s count my work group at 1,200 players over a 12-year span to be generous. Of the twelve hundred, over 20 of my teammates are dead – most recently Duerson and Seau – cause of death ranges from auto accidents to drug overdose to suicide and a twinge of murder sprinkled here and there. The majority being behavior-related deaths. Behavior/head injury correlation is the question at hand.

    Conversely, I attended a Military College which at any given time had a Cadet population of 2,000 in any given year, approximately half of which went into the armed service after graduation. Of these, many have been in war zones. I have lost less than ten classmates in my graduating year class that I am aware of several more in the classes above and below me. 4 years of 2,000 cadets with a yearly rotation of 600 in vs 300 approximately graduating with the surplus lost to attrition. So I knew about 3,200 people over the four years.

    The comparison of these two groups of men tells me all I want to know: My odds are better being classified as a Military School alumni than an NFL alumni!

    Greg Davis
    Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots, Arizona Cardinals
    Minnesota Vikings, San Diego Chargers, Oakland Raiders
    1987 – 1998

  3. Janet & Michael C. McCoy
    May 8th, 2012 at 12:00 pm #

    Mike C. McCoy

    Mike was also one of the players who took the early pension due to their misinformation. He was not married at the time and had signed a lifetime annuity that apparently could not be changed to include his wife as a beneficiary!

    Janet Brown-McCoy
    for Mike McCoy
    Green Bay Packers
    1976 – 1983

  4. Steve Wright
    May 8th, 2012 at 8:23 pm #

    Steve Wright


    I absolutely remember being told we would not make it to 65 and we should take early retirement! This was after we went on strike to get early retirement and widows’ benefits.

    Thanks for remembering.
    Steve Wright
    Green Bay Packers, Washington Redskins, New York Giants,
    Chicago Bears, St. Louis Cardinals
    1964 – 1972

  5. Eric Crabtree
    May 8th, 2012 at 10:04 pm #

    Eric Crabtree

    Dave –

    l played in the 60’s and 70’s. We were told the same thing about the average age being 55 so a lot of us took early retirement.

    Eric Crabtree
    Denver Broncos, Cincinnatti Bengals,
    New England Patriots
    1967 – 1971

  6. James Nicholson
    May 9th, 2012 at 3:14 pm #

    Jim Nicholson

    When I was a Player Rep. in the 70s, we were told that the average life expectancy was 52.

    James B. Nicholson
    Chair HLRB
    Kansas City Chiefs, San Francisco 49ers
    1974 – 1981