12 Statistics about the Leading Bodybuilder Causes Of Death

Bodybuilders are not the healthiest people around despite what you may think. Being big isn't healthy, and neither is taking a bunch of Steroids...
  1. In 2021, more the 24 pro builders passed away suddenly, not including several other retired bodybuilders
  2. 54-76% of male and female bodybuilders have been afflicted by human growth hormone and AAS or Anabolic-androgenic steroids.
  3. Working out less than an hour a week has been shown to reduce the chance of metabolic syndrome by 29%, which can increase heart disease and heart failure
  4. Researchers believe “extreme dieting” may be the cause of some premature or “sudden” deaths among pro and amateur bodybuilders
  5. Bodybuilding supplements have been linked to liver dysfunction.
  6. HIV and viral hepatitis, along with sharing needles, may also be the cause of death among bodybuilders
  7. The mortality of rate of bodybuilders compared to the male population is 34% higher
  8. In 2023, professional bodybuilders were found to die at a lower rate than professional wrestlers.

Heart Predictors of Deaths In Bodybuilders

The extreme muscle mass sport of bodybuilding places unimaginable stress on the cardiovascular system, and as such many male and female professional bodybuilders suffer from high blood pressure and have lost their lives. Let’s take a look at some of the key statistics when it comes to heart health risks and death among the bodybuilding community.

Bodybuilders that passed away were found to be 73.7% heavier than the average adult male

Heavier body weight has been found to be a leading cause of death among bodybuilders, with researchers believing the increased weight puts the heart under extreme pressure, which could explain the increase in deaths. (1)

100% of autopsies found left ventricular myocardium thickness

Researchers believe that prolonged use of anabolic steroids and performance-enhancing drugs could be a contributor to the many cardiovascular abnormalities found in bodybuilders. That said, athletes who have not abused anabolic steroids have also reported left ventricular hypertrophy.

Chamber Diastolic dysfunction is 33% higher in bodybuilders

Cororoners have reported that causes of death may due to heart disease, sudden cardiac death, steroid-induced cardiomyopathy, and left ventricular hypertrophy.

Atherosclerosis was found in nearly 80% of autopsies

In this instance, researchers believe that anabolic steroids abuse, along with performance-enhancing drugs, may also contribute to the cardiac abnormalities presently found in professional bodybuilders. Scientists have clearly stated, though, that research on competitive bodybuilding is in its infancy. (2)

Cancer Deaths And The Bodybuilding Community

Cancer rates among the general population are at all-time highs and are commonly due to poor diet, excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, and contaminants in the air and groundwater. Research suggests that bodybuilders seem to be much healthier than the general population, with cancer mortality rates much lower than the average American.

Cancer deaths are lower in bodybuilders

This is probably due to the fact that lung cancer is the primary cause of death in young men, with pro-bodybuilders typically smoking less than the general population.

More Muscle equals less cancer

Researchers have found that higher levels of muscular strength are directly linked with a reduction in cancer mortality among young men.

Increases in strength may prevent premature death and reduce cancer

Numerous studies have shown the positive benefits of weight training on one’s physical and cognitive health. Regular daily activities such as lifting weights and other types of resistance training are recommended by the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society. (3)

Pro Bodybuilder deaths And Average Males

Bodybuilders die at slower rates than the average American

Research shows that bodybuilders live longer than the average American male, particularly in the modern-day era. Again the benefits of weight training on heart health are many, and this is probably the main reason why bodybuilders live longer than average Americans. (4)

Bodybuilders die at faster rates than other pro athletes

Compared to the National Football League and Major League Baseball, pro bodybuilders die at faster rates, probably due to complications from anabolic steroids and performance-enhancing drugs complications such as heart disease, kidney failure, and other risk factors.

Rates Of Mortality In Pro Male Bodybuilding community

Professional male bodybuilders tend to use high doses of anabolic steroids, and performance-enhancing drugs, which help to boost their athletic performance. These anabolic steroids are potentially linked to negative sequelae, which include medical conditions like cardiovascular impacts, liver deterioration, and hyperlipidemia.

One study looked at 1,578 professional male bodybuilders

The study compared male bodybuilders between 1948 and 2014 and was able to identify and obtain mortality data for 597 of them. This study looked at data obtained from public records and, bodybuilding websites, professional competition start lists, and social media. The mortality rates were then compared to CDC mortality rates for males aged in the same population.

Based on age-matched data sourced from public references, 40 deaths should’ve been expected in this group, which would’ve yielded a standardized mortality rate of 95%

The average age of the bodybuilders was 47,5 years, and their mean age during the competition was 24.6 years. Out of the 597 professional male bodybuilders’ mortality, data the study looked at, 58 of them were dead, with the other 539 alive and kicking. (5)

Mortality rates were 34% higher in bodybuilders compared to age-matched American males

Researchers are unclear as to the cause of these deaths however they believe anabolic steroids and performance-enhancing drugs, have a significant negative impact on their health, Additionally, extreme weight training, diets, and the lack of aerobic fitness may also play critical in the higher rates of mortality among professional male bodybuilders.

Researchers are now focused on determining the causes of further deaths by using other sources and verification methods, such as linking their data with the National Death Index.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most common cause of death in bodybuilders?

According to coroners, the vast majority of death among bodybuilding community members was ventricular hypertrophy and sudden cardiac death.

How many pro bodybuilders have died?

Since bodybuilding statistics have been kept, 2021 is, without a doubt, the worst in terms of death for bodybuilders. A total of 15 amateur and pro bodybuilders tragically lost their lives performing the sport they love.

What is the average life expectancy of a professional bodybuilder?

According to some numbers, bodybuilders have an average of 80, slightly higher than an American adult male. Researchers believe this extended longevity is due to the overwhelmingly positive benefits that come from lifting weights.

What are common bodybuilder health problems?

Several health conditions, such as kidney failure, heart disease, stabbings, blood clots, and infection, are just a few of the health conditions that can negatively impact professional bodybuilders. Deep vein thrombosis is also a very real threat caused by poor blood flowing deeper into the veins and muscle tissue.

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Escalante G, Darrow D, Ambati VNP, Gwartney DL, Collins R. Dead Bodybuilders Speaking from the Heart: An Analysis of Autopsy Reports of Bodybuilders That Died Prematurely. J Funct Morphol Kinesiol. 2022 Nov 24;7(4):105. doi: 10.3390/jfmk7040105. PMID: 36547651; PMCID: PMC9781327. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36547651/

Escalante, G.; Darrow, D.; Ambati, V.N.P.; Gwartney, D.L.; Collins, R. Dead Bodybuilders Speaking from the Heart: An Analysis of Autopsy Reports of Bodybuilders That Died Prematurely. J. Funct. Morphol. Kinesiol. 2022, 7, 105

Ruiz, J. R., Sui, X., Lobelo, F., Lee, D. C., Morrow, J. R., Jr, Jackson, A. W., HΓ©bert, J. R., Matthews, C. E., SjΓΆstrΓΆm, M., & Blair, S. N. (2009). Muscular strength and adiposity as predictors of adulthood cancer mortality in men. Cancer epidemiology, biomarkers & prevention : a publication of the American Association for Cancer Research, cosponsored by the American Society of Preventive Oncology, 18(5), 1468–1476. https://doi.org/10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-08-1075




Brenton Barker

Brenton Barker | Writer

Brenton is a highly qualified sports coach with over 20 years of experience working with professional athletes. With a degree in sports coaching and experience in prominent positions, including Head Advisor to the Japanese Government Sports Institute and Manager & Head Coach to Australia's Governing Sporting Body. Currently, he consults with several professional athletes and sporting organizations, sharing his expertise to help them reach their full potential.

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