Football player

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An association football player

A football player, footballer, or soccer player is a sportsperson who plays one of the different types of football. The main types of football are association football, American football, Canadian football, Australian rules football, Gaelic football, rugby league, and rugby union.

It has been estimated that there are 250 million association football players in the world,[1] and many play the other forms of football.


Arild Stavrum, a retired football player who post-retirement has worked as a football manager and novelist

Jean-Pierre Papin has described football as a "universal language".[2] Footballers across the world and at almost any level may regularly attract large crowds of spectators, and players are the focal points of widespread social phenomena such as association football culture.

Footballers generally begin as amateurs and the best players progress to become professional players. Normally they start at a youth team (any local team) and from there, based on skill and talent, scouts offer contracts. Once signed, some learn to play better football and some advance to the senior or professional teams.


Wages in some top leagues may be very significantly higher to other jobs. Players in the Premier League earn average wages of about $1 million.[3] However, only a fraction of professional football players play at this level. Wages may be much more moderate in other divisions and leagues, and a significant amount of players are semi-professional.


A minority of retired footballers continue working full-time within football, for instance as football managers. A 1979 study reported that former first-team ballplayers were over-represented as top ranking executives in their companies and had greater income mobility than second teamers and reserves.[4] However, some experience chronic health issues, see below.


Psychological aspects of performance[edit]

Footballers perform more poorly when playing for a visiting team than a home team. This is called home advantage. In science, causes for this phenomenon have been proposed but never confirmed, making the reasons for this behaviour an "unsolved puzzle".[5]

Research shows that association football players that take less than 200ms after the referee blows their whistle for a penalty kick are significantly more likely to miss scoring than those that take over a second.[6]

Health issues[edit]

Peter Crouch, an example of a "lean and muscular" association football player
Reggie White, an example of an American football player who suffered a premature death. Health effects of American football are under current scientific scrutiny.
Heading of the ball in association football increases the incidence of chronic brain damage

An Irish 2002 study of association and Gaelic football players characterised players as "lean and muscular with a reasonably high level of capacity in all areas of physical performance".[7] The opposite is the case for American football, where obesity could be the cause of grave health problems.[8]

A 2000 study documented injuries sustained by Czech [association] football players at all levels:[9]

Trauma was the cause of 81.5% of the injuries and overuse was the cause of 18.5%. Joint sprains predominated (30%), followed by fractures (16%), muscle strains (15%), ligament ruptures (12%), meniscal tears and contusions (8%), and other injuries. Injuries to the knee were most prevalent (29%), followed by injuries to the ankle (19%) and spine (9%). More injuries occurred during games (59%) than in practice.

Although levels of depression and pain in retired football players are on par with the societal average,[10] some players suffer from post-retirement chronic injuries. Head injuries are a particular concern.

Life expectancy[edit]

The average life expectancy or lifespan of an American football NFL player has been reported to be extremely low, only 53 to 59 years depending on playing position.[11] However, a 2012 study reported that retired NFL players have a lower death rate than men in the general population.[12] An oft-cited life expectancy of 58 years has been claimed by Sports Illustrated to be based on a myth.[13] According to a 2007 study, which also claims that little supporting data is available, retired American football players had "long and fulfilling careers with no apparent long-term detrimental effects on physical or mental health scores despite a high prevalence of arthritis".[14] One explanation is that "life expectancy" is ambiguous: it may in some contexts refer to the expected age of death of a player, and in other contexts to the expected remaining number of life years.

As for association football, a 2011 German study found that German national team players live 1.9 years shorter than the general male population.[15][16]

[S]occer players participating in international matches for Germany have reduced longevity compared to the general population. This disadvantage was the larger, the earlier the international soccer player started his international career. This finding is in line with the current knowledge of life expectancy in major athletes, especially those from other team sports

A 1983 study of rugby players found that the life expectancy of All Blacks is the same as for the general population.[17]


American football players are prone to head injuries such as concussion. In later life, this increases the risk of dementia[18] and Alzheimers[19] Professional American football players self-reporting concussions are at greater risk for having depressive episodes later in life compared with those retired players self-reporting no concussions.[20][21]

Probably due to the repeated trauma associated with heading balls, professional association football has been suggested to increase the incidence of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.[22] In a 1987 study of former Norwegian association football national team players, one third of the players were found to have central cerebral atrophy, i.e. brain damage.[23] A 1999 study connected soccer to chronic traumatic head injury (CTHI):[24]

[P]articipation in amateur soccer in general and concussion specifically is associated with impaired performance in memory and planning functions. Due to the worldwide popularity of soccer, these observations may have important public health implications


Anterior cruciate ligaments are particularly vulnerable in most types of football due to injuries that can be sustained during tackles.


An increased incidence of osteoarthritis in the hip joint has been found in retired football players.[25]


A 2012 study of association football injuries found that 19% of all injuries were muscle injuries, of which 54% affected the thigh muscles.[26]

Sleep and psychological functioning[edit]

In a 2009 study, association football was found to be associated with favourable sleep patterns and psychological functioning in adolescent male football players.[27]

The rate of suicide among NFL vets has been found to be 59% lower than in the general population.[28]

FIFA response[edit]

In 2012, FIFA released a paper intended to identify key risk factors for association football players.[29]

Lists of players[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ football – Britannica Online Encyclopedia. (1970-04-21). Retrieved on 2011-11-05.
  2. ^ "Jean-Pierre Papin: 'Football is a universal language'". Cafebabel. 
  3. ^ "From £20 to £33,868 per week: a quick history of English football’s top-flight wages - Sporting Intelligence". 
  4. ^ [1] College Football and Social Mobility: A Case Study of Notre Dame Football Players. Allen L. Sack and Robert Thiel. Sociology of Education Vol. 52, No. 1 (Jan., 1979), pp. 60-66
  5. ^ Home Advantage in Football: A Current Review of an Unsolved Puzzle
  6. ^ ResearchBlogging.orgJordet, G., Hartman, E., & Sigmundstad, E. (2009). Temporal links to performing under pressure in international Association Football penalty shootouts Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 10 (6), 621–627 doi:10.1016/j.psychsport.2009.03.004. (2009-09-10). Retrieved on 2011-11-05.
  7. ^ Europe PubMed Central (Europe PMC). "Anthropometric and fitness profiles of elite players in two football codes. - Abstract - Europe PubMed Central". 
  8. ^ "Sports: A huge problem". 
  9. ^ "Severe Injuries in Football Players". 
  10. ^ Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2007;39(4):599-605 Depression and Pain in Retired Professional Football Players
  11. ^ "New NFL goal: A longer life". 
  12. ^ "Study shows NFL players live longer". USATODAY.COM. 
  13. ^ Archived November 29, 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ Am J Sports Med October 2007 vol. 35 no. 10 1674-1679 The Health Status of Retired American Football Players
  15. ^
  16. ^ "Longevity of soccer players: an investigation of all German internationals from 1908 to 2006". 
  17. ^ Beaglehole, R; Stewart, A (1983). "The longevity of international rugby players". The New Zealand medical journal 96 (735): 513–5. PMID 6578423. 
  18. ^ Association between Recurrent Concussion and Late-Life Cogni... Neurosurgery 57(4) (2005)
  19. ^ Ritter, Jim. (2011-07-18) Research: Football players may be more vulnerable to Alzheimer's | Loyola University Health System. Retrieved on 2011-11-05.
  20. ^ doi: 10.1177/0363546512456193 Am J Sports Med October 2012 vol. 40 no. 10 2206-2212 Nine-Year Risk of Depression Diagnosis Increases With Increasing Self-Reported Concussions in Retired Professional Football Players
  21. ^ "Dynasty to death: CBC's Fifth Estate examines head injuries in football". 19 November 2008. 
  22. ^ "Severely increased risk of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis among Italian professional football players - Brain". 
  23. ^ Neuroradiology March 1989, Volume 31, Issue 1, pp 44-48 Brain damage in former association football players
  24. ^ JAMA. 1999;282(10):971-973. doi:10.1001/jama.282.10.971 Neuropsychological Impairment in Amateur Soccer Players (free access)
  25. ^ "An Error Occurred Setting Your User Cookie". 
  26. ^ [Sports Injuries 2012, pp 871-875] Thigh Muscle Injuries in Professional Football Players: A Seven Year Follow-Up of the UEFA Injury Study
  27. ^ doi: 10.1177/1359105309342602 J Health Psychol November 2009 vol. 14 no. 8 1144-1155 ‘Football Is Good for Your Sleep’ Favorable Sleep Patterns and Psychological Functioning of Adolescent Male Intense Football Players Compared to Controls
  28. ^
  29. ^ Br J Sports Med 2012;46:11-17 doi:10.1136/bjsports-2011-090634 Risk management: FIFA's approach for protecting the health of football players

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