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NFL Players Not at Increased Heart Risk
Date:5/26/2009

Study finds they showed no more signs of cardiovascular trouble than general male population

TUESDAY, May 26 (HealthDay News) -- Those refrigerator-sized National Football League players you see on television every Sunday aren't at any higher risk of cardiovascular problems than the guy next door, a new study finds.

"Overall, the risk is similar to that of American males of similar age and race distribution," said Dr. Andrew M. Tucker, medical director of sports medicine at Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore, co-chair of the NFL subcommittee on cardiovascular health and lead author of a report in the May 27 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

And that's true even though the 504 players from 12 NFL teams examined in the study had an average body mass index (BMI) of 31, while a BMI of 30 is the accepted marker for obesity in the general population. That extra weight consists mostly of muscle rather than fat, Tucker explained.

"The mean average body fat was 14 percent," he said. "For wide receivers it was 8 percent, for offensive linemen 25 percent, the upper limit of normal."

The study was done because "we have been wondering about whether the extremely large size we've been seeing in NFL players is having a detrimental effect on cardiovascular risk," he said. And so Tucker and other members of the subcommittee selected veteran NFL players from 12 teams to be compared for cardiovascular risk factors with 1,959 young adults in an ongoing coronary risk study.

There were differences, some favorable -- the NFL players looked better on blood glucose readings, a measure of diabetes -- and some unfavorable -- most notably, a higher incidence of high blood pressure and borderline elevated blood pressure in the NFL group. Their incidence of high blood pressure was 13.8 percent, compared to 5.5 percent of the men in the general population. The incidence of what doctors call
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