It’s to be expected, says two-time Pro Bowler Julius Thomas, that “colliding into other people for a living” might result in some long-term injuries. But among former NFL players, Black athletes report worse and more disruptive chronic pain than white players, according to a new study Thomas co-authored with researchers at Harvard and Brigham & Women’s Hospital. The paper was published in the journal Pain this week.
The research, part of Harvard’s Football Players Health Study, used survey data from nearly 4,000 former pro American-style football players to examine their rates of chronic pain and what might be contributing to it. The analysis controlled for seasons of play, field position, self-reported concussion symptoms during active play, body mass index, and current use of pain medications. Still, data showed race-related health disparities existed even among these elite professional athletes who had access to top-of-the-line health care and other resources during their careers.