Observational study of the association between participation in high school football and self-rated health, obesity, and pain in adulthood

Published in American Journal of Epidemiology ,2019

Recommended citation: Gaulton, T.G., Deshpande, S.K., Small, D.S., and Neuman, M.D. (2019). "Observational study of the association between participation in high school football and self-rated health, obesity, and pain in adulthood." American Journal of Epidemiology. (accepted)

Abstract : American football is the most popular high school sport yet its association with health in adulthood has not been widely studied.
We investigated the association between high school football and self-rated health, obesity, and pain in adulthood using a retrospective cohort study of the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study from 1957 to 2004.
We matched 925 high school males who played varsity football with 1,521 males who did not play football. After matching, playing football was not associated with poor or fair self-rated health (odds ratio [OR] 0.88, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.63, 1.24; P = 0.48) or pain that limited activities (OR 0.86, 95% CI: 0.59, 1.25; P = 0.43) at age 65. Football was associated with an obese body mass index in adulthood (OR 1.32, 95% CI: 1.06, 1.64; P = 0.01).
In conclusion, our findings suggest that playing football in high school was not significantly associated with poor or fair self-related health at the age of 65 but did increase the risk of being obese as an adult compared to not playing football in high school. Our findings provide needed information about the risk of playing football to broader set of health outcomes.

Paper available here A pre-analysis protocol for this work is available here