HANOVER, N.H. — If your dream is to have a son who plays professional football, you should consider the months you’re trying to conceive. A new study finds that players born in the first quarter of the year are more likely to make it to the NFL.
Researchers at Dartmouth College found evidence that shows football players born in January through March develop faster than their slightly younger peers and participate in team sports, especially football, in higher numbers. This leads to a higher portion of players born earlier in the year making it to the NFL than the portions of players born in any other quarter.
The researchers analyzed data on 20,000 NFL payers and compared the distribution of player births to births from the general population. They found that NFL players are disproportionately born in the first three months of the year, indicating developmental advantages possessed by relatively older players in childhood carries into adolescence, which impacts players’ abilities to pursue a professional athletic career in young adulthood.
“Even in a meritocratic environment such as the NFL, physiological factors beyond player control on athletic success are important, with the influence of these factors starting as early as childhood,” explains study co-author Michael C. Herron, in a statement.
Herron and co-author Jack F. Heneghan suggest that further study into this phenomenon is needed, particularly work that would trace professional athletes who moved school districts as children.
The study is published in the Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports.