Does Early Career Achievement Lead to Earlier Death? Assessment of the Precocity-Longevity Effect in Professional Basketball Players

Objectives: To examine the precocity-longevity (P-L) effect in North American professional basketball players who debuted between 1946 and 1979, and to determine whether playing position and decade of play influenced the relationship between age of career achievements and life span.

Methods: A total of 1852 players were evaluated from a recognized sports archive (i.e.,, which provided information on date of birth, death, and career debut, playing position, and indicators of achievement (i.e., All-Star team and/or All-League team selection). Athletes were categorized as above or below the median age of professional debut and median age of selection to first All-Star team and/or All-League team. Analyses of deceased players (n = 598) were comprised of bivariate correlations between age of achievement (age of debut, age of first All-Star game, and age of first All-League team selection) and age of death, and t-tests to compare the average age of death of early and late achievers (p < 0.05). Survival analyses, using the entire sample (living and deceased players), compared the life spans between those who debuted above and below the median age of achievement for each indicator of achievement.

Results: Only the correlation between age of professional debut and age of death (r = 0.33, p < 0.001), age of first All-Star game and age of death (r = 0.29, p < 0.05), and the t-test comparing the average death age of early (66.4 years) and later (69.3 years) debut age groups (p = 0.01) reached statistical significance. However, survival analyses demonstrated a trend for lower risk of death for early achievers, with one exception (i.e., age of debut); this trend was not statistically significant.

Conclusion: Results did not support the P-L hypothesis, suggesting that sample characteristics (i.e., physical fitness of high performance athletes), and measurement methodologies, may influence support for the proposed hypothesis in sport. However, future research would benefit form larger sample sizes and cause of death data. 


Autor / Fonte:Nick Wattie, Srdjan Lemez, Chris I Ardern, Michael Rotondi, Joseph Baker Frontiers in Public Health 2016, 4: 258