Place but not Date of Birth Influences the Development and Emergence of Athletic Talent in American Football
Macdonald, Dany J.
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The purpose of this study was to examine the birthplace and relative age effects in National Football League (NFL) players. The place and date of birth of NFL players in the United States were analyzed with Monte Carlo simulations to determine if either factor was predictive of the probability of reaching the elite level in this sport. Consistent with previous findings on professional North American athletes in baseball, ice hockey, basketball, and golf, players born in cities with populations of less than 500,000 were significantly over-represented in the NFL, whereas players born in cities with populations over 500,000 were significantly under-represented. Unlike many other sports, no relative age effects were found for the NFL. Small cities, in particular, appeared to possess characteristics that facilitate the development and/or emergence of athletic talent in American football. Possible psychosocial factors mediating the birthplace effect are discussed as are implications for the development of sporting expertise.