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Papers of the Week

Papers: 10 Jun 2023 - 16 Jun 2023

Clinical, Sex/Gender/Race

Human Studies, Neurobiology

2023 Jun 09



Race differences in pain and pain-related risk factors among former professional American-style football players.


Edwards RR, Tan CO, Dairi I, Whittington AJ, Thomas JD, Campbell CM, Ross E, Taylor HA, Weisskopf M, Baggish AL, Zafonte R, Grashow R


The burden of pain is unequal across demographic groups, with broad and persisting race differences in pain-related outcomes in the United States. Members of racial and ethnic minorities frequently report more pervasive and severe pain compared with those in the majority, with at least some disparity attributable to differences in socioeconomic status. Whether race disparities in pain-related health outcomes exist among former professional football players is unknown. We examined the association of race with pain outcomes among 3995 former professional American-style football players who self-identified as either Black or White. Black players reported more intense pain and higher levels of pain interference relative to White players, even after controlling for age, football history, comorbidities, and psychosocial factors. Race moderated associations between several biopsychosocial factors and pain; higher body mass index was associated with more pain among White but not among Black players. Fatigue and psychosocial factors were more strongly related to pain among Black players relative to White players. Collectively, the substantial social and economic advantages of working as a professional athlete did not seem to erase race-related disparities in pain. We highlight an increased burden of pain among elite Black professional football players and identify race-specific patterns of association between pain and biopsychosocial pain risk factors. These findings illuminate potential future targets of interventions that may serve to reduce persistent disparities in the experience and impact of pain.