There has been a lot of discussion in the NFL world with regard to concussions and head trauma and the long-term effects of the game we are only just beginning to more fully understand. Perhaps it is because of that increasing awareness and the improvement in the science that goes into researching football-related injuries we are seeing more players begin entering retirement at earlier ages as often as we have been. The Wall Street Journal says NFL careers are shrinking at an unprecedented rate with the average NFL lifespan declining by roughly two and a half years from 2008 to 2014.
A breakdown in the career lifespans of NFL players is broken down by position in this chart. Running backs, wide receivers and tight ends — the positions that are prone to more collisions on the receiving end than any other position — have traditionally had the shorter lifespans, and that continues to be the case as careers are ending earlier and earlier.
There is simply no one factor to pin this trend on, but the Wall Street Journal does make note NFL teams are using more players than they have in the past. That leads to more players being signed, which inevitably leads to more players being cut and maybe never stepping on the field again. That may be due to injury or simply not getting another chance once being cut or unsigned by an NFL team. The NFL is all about money, and signing someone younger is always in the best interest of an NFL franchise as it tends to come at a cheaper rate than signing someone who has been around the league for a couple of years.
The good news for the NFL, at least for now, is there will always be talent pumping through the college football factory so there will always be players ready to take a roster spot. The NFL is not in any danger of falling into a gaping hole despite the track record of players seemingly retiring at earlier ages.