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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

UAB: Longevity Among Major League Baseball Players — Play Ball!

Drs. John Waterbor, from the Department of Epidemiology in the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health, and Glenn Fleisig, from the American Sports Medicine Institute in Birmingham, Alabama, provided invited commentary on an article in the current issue of JAMA Internal Medicine, titled, “All-cause and cause-specific mortality among Major League Baseball players”, by V.T. Nguyen and colleagues.

The major study finding is significant longevity, as the baseball players had a mortality rate that was only 76 percent of what is expected in U.S. men, with lower mortality risks for cardiovascular disease, cancer, unintentional injury, and respiratory disease, the four leading causes of death in the U.S. today. These findings are consistent with maintenance of a moderate body mass index (BMI), regular exercise, and eating well. The deficit of deaths from injury, most likely from fewer motor vehicle crashes and falls, may speak to the strength, coordination, and sense of balance among professional baseball players. Lower mortality rates also suggest access to screening and health care.

Causes of longevity are probably not specific to baseball but are instead specific to lifestyle. Maintaining a proper weight, exercising, and remaining fit are effective in increasing life expectancy. The study of occupational groups exposed intensely over a long period of time to factors that may decrease disease risks are of value because the results may apply to people having similar exposures but of lesser intensity and duration.

Full commentary

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