Why 1 in 6 Retired NFL Players Goes Bankrupt

bankruptcyRoughly one in every six NFL players take one of their hardest hits after leaving the field.

A new study found that nearly 16 percent of former players end up filing for bankruptcy within a dozen years of retiring.

It also revealed that career earnings and the length of a player’s career had little impact on whether they will end up broke. Star players are just as likely to file for bankruptcy as those who spent most of their time on the bench.

“Having played for a long time and been well paid does not provide much protection against the risk of going bankrupt,” wrote the study’s authors, who teach at Cal Tech, George Washington University and the University of Washington.

Among the high profile players who have filed for bankruptcy are Hall of Fame defensive tackle Warren Sapp, Pro Bowl wide receiver Andre Rison and Pro Bowl quarterback Mark Brunell. Sapp made more than $50 million during his career, according to salary tracker Spotrac, but filed for bankruptcy in 2012, within five years of his final game.

The study says that players should be able to save enough money they make during what they know will be a relatively short career so that they’ll be financially secure when the paychecks stop. But many engage in risky investments and begin “rapidly drawing down limited savings” soon after they finish playing.

The study does knock down a widely repeated claim by Sports Illustrated that “by the time they have been retired for two years, 78% of former NFL players have gone bankrupt or are under financial stress because of joblessness or divorce.”

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