A football player or footballer is a sport person who plays one of the different types of football. The main types of football are association football, American football, Canadian football, Australian rules football, Gaelic football, rugby league and rugby union.
It has been estimated that there are 250 million association football players in the world, and many play the other forms of football.
Jean-Pierre Papin has described football as a "universal language". Footballers across the world and at almost any level may regularly attract large crowds of spectators, and players are the focal points of widespread social phenomena such as association football culture.
Footballers generally begin as amateurs and the best players progress to become professional players. Normally they start at a youth team (any local team) and from there, based on skill and talent, scouts offer contracts. Once signed, some learn to play better football and a few advance to the senior or professional teams.
Wages in some top men's leagues are significantly higher than other jobs. Players in the Premier League earn average wages of about $1 million per year. In the wealthiest clubs in European football leagues, some players earn an average wage up to $6 to $8 million per year. The best players of those clubs can earn up to $70 million per year.
However, only a fraction of men's professional football players are paid at this level. Wages may be much more moderate in other divisions and leagues, and a significant number[clarification needed] of players are semi-professional. For example, the average annual salary for footballers in Major League Soccer (which started in 2009) for the 2013 season was $148,693, with significant variations depending on player position (goalkeepers for example earned $85,296, whereas forwards earned $251,805).
Popularity and average salaries in women's leagues are far lower. For example, players in the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) (which started in 2012) earn $15,000 to $40,000 per year as of January 2017.
A minority of retired footballers continue working full-time within football, for instance as football managers. A 1979 study reported that former first-team ballplayers were over-represented as top ranking executives in their companies and had greater income mobility than second teamers and reserves. However, some experience chronic health issues, see below.
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Research shows that association football players that take less than 200ms after the referee blows their whistle for a penalty kick are significantly more likely to miss scoring than those that take over a second.
An Irish 2002 study of association and Gaelic football players characterised players as "lean and muscular with a reasonably high level of capacity in all areas of physical performance". The opposite is the case for American football, where obesity could be the cause of grave health problems.
A 2000 study documented injuries sustained by Czech [association] football players at all levels:
Trauma was the cause of 81.5% of the injuries and overuse was the cause of 18.5%. Joint sprains predominated (30%), followed by fractures (16%), muscle strains (15%), ligament ruptures (12%), meniscal tears and contusions (8%), and other injuries. Injuries to the knee were most prevalent (29%), followed by injuries to the ankle (19%) and spine (9%). More injuries occurred during games (59%) than in practice.
Patellar tendinitis (knee pain) is considered an overused injury that also happens to other athletes of virtually every sport. It is a common problem that football players develop and can usually be treated by a quadriceps strengthening program. Jumping activities place particularly high strains on the tendon and with repetitive jumping, tearing and injury of the tendon can occur. The chronic injury and healing response results in inflammation and localized pain.
Although levels of depression and pain in retired football players are on par with the societal average, some players suffer from post-retirement chronic injuries. Head injuries are a particular concern.
The average life expectancy or lifespan of an American football NFL player has been reported to be extremely low, only 53 to 59 years depending on playing position. However, a 2012 study reported that retired NFL players have a lower death rate than men in the general population. An oft-cited life expectancy of 58 years has been claimed by Sports Illustrated to be based on a myth. According to a 2007 study, which also claims that little supporting data is available, retired American football players had "long and fulfilling careers with no apparent long-term detrimental effects on physical or mental health scores despite a high prevalence of arthritis". One explanation is that "life expectancy" is ambiguous: it may in some contexts refer to the expected age of death of a player, and in other contexts to the expected remaining number of life years.
Football players participating in international matches for Germany have reduced longevity compared to the general population. This disadvantage was the larger, the earlier the international football player started his international career. This finding is in line with the current knowledge of life expectancy in major athletes, especially those from other team sports
American football players are prone to head injuries such as concussions. In later life, this increases the risk of dementia and Alzheimer's. Professional American football players self-reporting concussions are at greater risk for having depressive episodes later in life compared with those retired players self-reporting no concussions.
Probably due to the repeated trauma associated with heading balls, professional association football has been suggested to increase the incidence of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. In a 1987 study of former Norwegian association football national team players, one third of the players were found to have central cerebral atrophy, i.e. brain damage. A 1999 study connected soccer to chronic traumatic head injury (CTHI):
[P]articipation in amateur association football in general and concussion specifically is associated with impaired performance in memory and planning functions. Due to the worldwide popularity of soccer, these observations may have important public health implications
A 2012 study of association football injuries found that 19% of all injuries were muscle injuries, of which 54% affected the thigh muscles.
In a 2009 study, association football was found to be associated with favourable sleep patterns and psychological functioning in adolescent male football players.
The rate of suicide among NFL vets has been found to be 59% lower than in the general population.
In 2015, a systematic review of a sample of fifty-four peer-reviewed publications and three articles on elite athletes' mortality and longevity, resulted in major longevity outcomes for the elite athletes (baseball, football, soccer, basketball, and cycling ) "compared to age- and sex-matched controls from the general population and other athletes." The span longevities were influenced by factors like the type of sport, the playing position, the race, and the energy system.
An observational study held from professional footballers -active (during career) and recently retired (post career, aged more that 45 years)- of 70 different countries between 2007 and 2013, elaborated on data of the World Footballers' Union (FIFPro), recorded 214 deaths of which 25% was caused by accidents, 11% by suicides and 33% by a suspected cardiac pathology (on an overall 55% of deaths caused by a some sort of disease).
Clinical evaluation, ECG and echocardiography are required to the athletes as pre-participation tools in order to prevent sudden cardiac deaths on people aged less than 35. To evaluate the risk of myocardial fibrosis, it may useful and recommended the additional use of alte gadolinium enhancement (LGE) with pre- and post-contrast and extracellular volume fraction (ECV) images. Even encouraged, it wasn't yet made mandatory.
In 2015, it was conducted an analysis of 205 deaths among North American professional athletes who were registered as active at time of their decease. Data were collected by the four major sports: National Basketball Association (NBA), National Football League (NFL), National Hockey League (NHL), and Major League Baseball (MLB). The NFL and NBA active players resulted in "a higher likelihood of dying in a car accident" and in a significantly higher likelihood of dying from a cardiac-related illness compared to the NHL and MLB active populations.
In 2013, a study on 3.439 retired athletes of the National Football League s with at least 5 credited playing seasons between 1959 and 1988 didn't show any statistical correlation between the suicide mortality and the professional activity and particularly the football-related compared with the general control sample. No stratification was reported between speed and nonspeed position players.
Until the 2000s a very limited number of formal studies has been published on mortality from all causes in soccer players, despite the high interest of the public to the matter. An extended study held in Italy between 1975 and 2003 on a total of 5.389 players, age 14-35 years, highlighted that, while the mortality for cancer and cardiovascular diseases among the soccer players cohort was significantly lower than the general Italian population, the "mortality rates for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and car accidents were significantly higher than expected, and for ALS the risk is 18 times than expected."