At the end of their show (Penn & Teller Bullshit, s.07 ep.03) on violent video games, Penn & Teller claim (at the 26:10 mark):

from 1931 until 2007, 665 kids died from injuries they suffered playing football.

Obviously this question is about American Football and not Soccer.


1 Answer 1



There has been a database of football/American Football/gridiron injuries maintained since 1931.

The 2011 Annual Survey of Football Injury Research contains a table (Table 1) which lists "Fatalities: Directly Due to Football".

The 2011 figure for High-School students is 678, and if you subtract the 13 deaths since 2008, you get the 665 figure quoted by Penn Jilette.

The tragedies don't stop there. Table 2 lists another 484 high-school fatalities (1931-2011) "indirectly" related to football. Also, these figures don't include "sandlot", pro, semi-pro and college deaths.

On the other hand, extending back to 1931 is distorting the picture, as the sport is now safer than it was 80 years ago.

The report explains:

What is important is that the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research has been collecting catastrophic football injury data (fatalities, disability, serious injuries) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for the past 48 years and has been directly responsible for the reduction of football fatalities from 36 in 1968 to zero in 1990, and the reduction of cervical cord injuries from 30 a year in the late 1960s to single digits in most years since 1991. We will continue to collect this data and to make safety recommendations to the NFHS, the NCAA, and youth football programs.

  • What is "sandlot" football?
    – SIMEL
    Dec 21, 2012 at 10:01
  • From the study: "Sandlot is defined as non-school football, but organized and using full protective equipment." The derivation is explained by Google's definition of sandlot: "1. A piece of unoccupied land used by children for games. 2. Denoting or relating to sports played by amateurs".
    – Oddthinking
    Dec 21, 2012 at 11:17
  • There is also the movie The Sandlot. I personally know someone who became a paraplegic playing high school football (~15 years ago), but nobody who has died.
    – Sam I Am
    Dec 22, 2012 at 4:25

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