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Mayo Clinic: Retired National Football League Linemen Have High Incidence of Sleep Apnea
Date:3/26/2009

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For all other study participants (average age of 53), who played other positions, 46 percent had sleep apnea with an average of 13.4 sleep-related disorder episodes per hour. The average BMI was 30.5.

In addition, 45 percent of the linemen and 32 percent of nonlinemen reported having high blood pressure. "High blood pressure is another risk factor for cardiac disease, and may be linked to both obesity and sleep apnea," Dr. Somers says.

Retired football players, and particularly linemen, need to be aware of sleep disordered breathing and its connection to cardiac risk factors, says lead author Felipe Albuquerque, M.D. "Many people do not realize that they have a sleep disorder," he says. "They may have no symptoms that they are aware of, but perhaps they know they are tired during the day and they're told they snore very loudly. These can be clues to the presence of sleep apnea. Our results show that retired linemen need to realize that they are a very high risk population and may need evaluation and treatment."

Previous research by various institutions and investigators in recent years, much of which has been assisted by the Living Heart Foundation, showed concerning health trends for retired NFL players:

  • Retired NFL players are more prone to obesity and obstructive sleep apnea than the general population.
  • Retired NFL players have an increased rate of metabolic syndrome, a condition increasingly linked to excess weight and lack of activity, which can lead to type 2 diabetes.
  • Higher mortality is reported in linemen, as compared to people in the general population of the same age who are not professional football players. Research is needed to determine the causes.

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