I came across this claim in the wikipedia entry of EA Sport's Madden NFL Football series:

While appearing on the cover has become an honor akin to appearing on the Wheaties box,[1] much like the Sports Illustrated Cover Jinx, certain players who appeared on Madden video game box art have experienced a decline in performance, usually due to an injury.
Whether or not the Madden Curse exists, EA believes that many fans voted against their favorite player in hopes of avoiding it.[2] The Madden Curse has become so prominent, that it's even gained the attention of the gaming world, creating odds on how likely an injury will occur to the player appearing on the cover.

Also see the (quite long) list of examples there.

The claim is that a player appearing on the cover of Madden NFL is more likely to suffer from injuries and/or a major performance drop in the upcoming season.

Was the number of injuries and bad luck happening to the cover players really unusually high? Or is this just a case of selective perception?

  • It could be selective perception, or even selection bias. Perhaps players selected to appear on the cover of Madden NFL are more likely to have a decline in performance in the near future. This seems quite likely to me, as one is likely to select a player at the "top of his game" for such an "honor." If you pick players with the greatest room for decline, it's inevitable that they will have a noticeable decline.
    – Flimzy
    Jun 6, 2012 at 15:42
  • I've changed the title - we can't really address whether a curse is "real" because there's no way to prove it (or disprove it).
    – Sklivvz
    Jun 6, 2012 at 17:45
  • 1
    I chose this title because "madden curse" seemed to be the commonly used name for the phenomenon behind the claim.
    – magnattic
    Jun 7, 2012 at 0:13

1 Answer 1


According to the list in the Wikipedia article there are 8 players who missed at least one game due to injury during the season they were on the cover, 9 if you count the pro-bowl. There have been 16 players on the cover, so that is 9/16=56.25% of the cover athletes end up injured.

I haven't found much to give an idea of the percentage of all players that play a full season, this is the best I could come up with, It lists how many games were played by a player in a season from 1988-98 for RB, QB, and WR. I calculated 56.93% played a full season, which is close to the number for the cover athletes, but it also is not a very reliable number based on the many limitations of the data i got it from.

It is close enough for me to conclude that the number of injured cover athletes is not significantly different than the number of injured athletes in football, the "Madden Curse" is likely just confirmation bias and ignorance of overall injury rates.

  • But what do the numbers look like when you look at serious injuries only. I suspect that the results are more that the players who play harder end up on madden's cover, and also are more likely to suffer serious injury.
    – Chad
    Jun 7, 2012 at 19:14
  • @Chad that may have something to do with it, but I think the largest part is just stringing together multiple seasons with no missed games due to injury is not very common.
    – Ryathal
    Jun 7, 2012 at 19:21

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