Many of you have at one time or another played the video game Madden NFL™. Named after Pro Football Hall of Fame coach and commentator John Madden, it has sold more than 100 million copies and has generated over $4 billion in sales (Gaudiosi, 2013). The video game designed by EA (Electronic Arts) Sports™ uses the name and image of real NFL players. For each player, there is a corresponding Madden Rating that is used to dictate their level of performance within the game. Many NFL players are fans of the game and when a new version of the game comes out they immediately check out their game rating (McClusky, 2003). Players often complain to EA Sports™ about the inaccuracy of their rating or appearance (Hruby, 2010).
The Madden Rating for each player is a composite of scores in 43 categories that each player is graded on and players are categorized as either rookies or veterans. For rookies, data from pro days and the NFL combine are used to determine the ratings for speed, strength, and other performance categories. For veterans, these attribute scores are assigned based on NFL game film and scouting reports. The ratings for each of the 43 categories are then weighted based on the player position. As an example, successful offensive lineman play is dependent on the player’s ability to pass block. The Madden Rating is significantly impacted by that attribute (all offensive line positions have at least 20% of the Madden Rating determined by the “Pass block” attribute, with the “blindside” offensive line position at 39% of their score). However, some attributes, such as jumping and route running are not important for the offensive linemen position and are non-factors in the Madden Rating for offensive linemen. Since there are a few attributes for athletes at all positions that could be directly related to body composition, I decided it would be fun to examine the Madden Rating against measures of body composition. Working with Dr. Joe Ostrem from Concordia University, we decided to explore the relationship between an athlete’s body composition and their Madden Rating and individual attribute scores on the EA Sports Madden NFL™ video game. In this blog post, we will focus on the Madden Rating. In an upcoming blog post, we will focus on a few of the individual attribute scores such as speed, strength, etc.
Data collection for body composition and Madden NFL ratings
In a previous study in NFL players (Dengel et al., 2014) we had determined the body composition in 411 NFL players using dual X-ray absorptiometry (DXA). For the determination of body composition, DXA is the gold standard. Of these 411 NFL players, we were able to determine the Madden Overall Score in 214 players. The performance values for each player were retrieved from Madden NFL™ (Electronic Arts Inc., Redwood City, CA, USA) using the Microsoft™ platform (Xbox™ and Xbox 360™) (Microsoft Corporation, Redmond, WA, USA). To be as accurate as possible we retrieved the closest performance values for each player from the Madden NFL™ video game that corresponded to the date of that player’s body composition test.
Table 1 compares the physical characteristics (i.e., age, height, weight, and body mass index) of the participants by position. If positions share a letter within each row, there is no significant difference (p<0.05) between them. As we have previously reported (Dengel et al., 2014) in this group of professional football players we observed that body composition of defensive backs and wide receivers was never significantly different from each other. The offensive linemen had significantly more fat mass than defensive linemen, but the 2 positions were similar for all measures of lean mass. Interestingly, we observed that linebackers and running backs were not significantly different from each other for all measures of body composition. Tight ends were significantly different from offensive linemen on all measures except upper-body lean mass and the ratio of upper-body to lower-body lean mass.
Madden Overall Score
For the entire group the mean (+standard deviation) Madden Rating was 69.3+9.2 (range 42-97). In examining the Madden Rating by group there was no significant (p=0.234) difference among the different player positions and the Madden Rating (Figure 1). We also examined the relationship between the Madden Rating and different measures of body composition. Surprisingly, in the total group we found no significant relationships between any measures of body composition (i.e., total lean mass, fat mass, and body mass) and the Madden Rating. We also examined the relationship between body composition and the Madden Rating by player position. Similar to what we observed in the total group we found no significant correlations between the Madden Rating and measures of body composition in wide receivers, tight ends, defensive linemen, offensive linemen, or running backs. In defensive backs, there was a small, but significant (r=0.329, p<0.05) correlation between total lean mass and the Madden Rating. While in linebackers there was a significant (r=-0.432, p<0.01) correlation between total mass and the Madden Rating.
So what is the take-home message? In regards to the Madden Rating, a player’s body composition does not seem to be related to the Madden Rating. It must be remembered that the Madden Rating is a composite score. Although it does factor in variables such as 40-yard time and bench press from the player’s NFL combine, the Madden Rating is also based upon subjective variables. This may be due to a number of factors, the major factor being the developers of the Madden NFL game do not have access to this information. In this blog post, we only examined the Madden Rating and its relationship to body composition. In the next blog post we will examine the relationship between body composition and a few of the individual component scores (i.e., speed, strength, agility, etc.). Since these scores are based upon more concrete variables we might find a significant relationship.
Dengel DR, Bosch TA, Burruss TP, Fielding KA, Engel BE, Weir NL, Weston TD: Body composition of National Football League players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 2014;28(1):1-6.
Gaudiosi, J. (2013-09-05). "Madden: The $4 billion video game franchise". CNN. Retrieved 9 June 2021.
Hruby P. (2010-08-05). "The Franchise”. ESPN. Retrieved 29 May 2021.
McClusky M. (2003-08-13). "Madden Keeps Gaining Ground". Wired. Retrieved 29 May 2021.
About the Authors
Joe Ostrem, Ph.D., is an associate professor in the Department of Kinesiology & Health Sciences at Concordia University, St. Paul, Minnesota. Don Dengel, Ph.D., is a professor in the School of Kinesiology at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota.