What Sports Have The Lowest Life Expectancy?

What Sports Have The Lowest Life Expectancy

Children are encouraged to participate in sports from a young age for a variety of reasons, including health benefits, developing social and leadership skills, and gaining confidence. There is also an abundance of research showing that regular exercise can increase the quality and longevity of one’s lifespan by several years. However, some sports can actually take years off of one’s life, rather than extend it. Read on to learn more about the sports that have the lowest life expectancy.

What Sports Have The Lowest Life Expectancy?

Perhaps not surprisingly, sports with high levels of physical contact are associated with shorter lifespans such as American football and boxing. The low life expectancies can be explained primarily by the acute brain damage, as well as the gradual neurological degeneration that occurs frequently in high impact sports.

American Football

american football

In American football, the team on defense tries to prevent the offense from advancing the ball by tackling and running into offensive players, making collisions a very common occurrence in the sport. Due to the physical nature of the game, American football players exhibit a host of medical issues that are believed to be linked with the low life expectancy for players. For example, an independent study found that 99% of the 202 NFL players tested showed signs of neurodegenerative diseases from repeated head trauma, and these individuals are three times more likely to die from brain disease than elite athletes of non-contact sports. 

Furthermore, the same study indicated that players who play positions that rely more on strength die from heart disease at much higher rates than players in positions that traditionally have fewer collisions. These sort of neurological and cardiovascular issues that arise from high impact contact explain the life expectancy of 55 years for football players, according to another independent study by doctors at the University of North Carolina, which is 24 years shorter than the average American.



Along a similar line to American football, boxing involves a high degree of physical contact. It is a thrilling and fiery sport in which two athletes throw punches at each other in a ring to try and knock the other person out. Since the main objective of the sport is to cause bodily harm to the opponent, it is no surprise that boxing has high mortality rates.

The repetitive blows to the head and torso in boxing gradually accumulate and have detrimental, long lasting effects on the body. In particular, boxing has been associated with brain injuries that lead to cognitive impairment and early onset dementia, and boxers suffer from head trauma-related deaths more than any other sport, even surpassing American football players.

Unlike other high impact sports like American football or ice hockey, boxers wear minimal padding and no helmets, making the head particularly vulnerable to serious trauma. The life expectancy of elite boxers is 68 years, compared to the national average of 79 years, based on an independent study consisting of 1,000 professional athletes from different sports.