Government research on more than 3,000 retired NFL players says suicides were less common among men in this group than in the general population.
The researchers say the results aren't necessarily applicable to all NFL players, though, and they don't resolve the issue of whether suicides are more common in players with a degenerative brain disease linked with repeated concussions.
The research is from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, part of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . The agency has for decades been studying a group of retirees who played at least five seasons between 1959 and 1988.
Previous results from the ongoing research found the players had longer lifespans than men in the general population and were less likely to die prematurely from cancer, violence and accidents. But it also found they faced higher chances of dying from Alzheimer's disease and other brain disorders.
The suicide report involved 3,439 former players and found 12 suicides during the study years, 1979 to 2013. Suicide rates in the general population suggest 25 suicides would have been expected for men of comparable age. The results are to appear in the September print edition of the American Journal of Sports Medicine. They appeared in the online edition last week.
Suicides in several former NFL stars including Junior Seau, Dave Duerson and Ray Easterling, all diagnosed with the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, have raised concerns about risks facing other players. CTE can only be diagnosed after death and has been found in dozens of former players.
The study lacked concussion data and did not examine whether any of the players involved had CTE.