Int J Sports Med 2007; 28(8): 697-702
DOI: 10.1055/s-2007-964863
Clinical Sciences

© Georg Thieme Verlag KG Stuttgart · New York

Elite Athletes: Is Survival Shortened in Boxers?

M. Bianco1 , C. Fabbricatore1 , N. Sanna1 , C. Fabiano1 , V. Palmieri1 , P. Zeppilli1
  • 1Department of Sports Medicine, Catholic University, Rome, Italy
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accepted after revision July 6, 2006

13. April 2007 (online)


Moderate exercise and intense physical training are associated with increased life expectancy (LE). Boxing is characterized by intentional and repetitive head blows, sometimes causing brain injury, possibly reducing LE. We examined a sample of male athletes born between 1860 and 1930 selected from the international “hall of fame” inductees in baseball (n = 154), ice hockey (n = 130), tennis (n = 83), football (n = 81), boxing (n = 81), track and field (n = 59), basketball (n = 58), swimming (n = 37) and wrestling (n = 32). In boxing, we analyzed the number of disputed bouts/rounds and career records. Sports were also analyzed according to physiological demand and occurrence and kind of contact (intentional, unintentional). The Kaplan-Meier product limit method was used to compare survival curves (significance: p ≤ 0.05). Median LE of the samples was 76.0 yrs and no differences were observed in different sports, although it was lower in boxers (73.0 yrs) and higher in tennis players (79.0 yrs). Sports of different physiological demand were similar in respect to LE. No differences in LE were found related to occurrence and kind of impact. Similar LE was found in boxers of different weight or career records. In conclusion, this study indicates that LE in top-level athletes is unaffected by the type of discipline, and not related to physiological demand and intentional contact.


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Massimiliano Bianco

Department of Sports Medicine
Catholic University

Largo F. Vito, 1

00168 Rome