Obesity is obviously a common problem in the United States. The statistics of 2018 show at least 1 in 3 Americans is either overweight or obese.
But a recent article in the New York Times has outlined how obesity is affecting a somewhat surprising segment of the American population – namely, NFL stars.
The rise in obesity for NFL players actually makes quite a bit of sense, when you look at the background of what these athletes need to do to perform at their best on game day. Essentially, NFL teams target and enlist larger players for key positions on the offensive or defensive lines. Many players now clock in at 300 pounds or more.
While this extra girth and heft certainly comes in handy during the football season, off the field, it can cause some long-term problems.
After retiring from the NFL, many of these former players are unable to lose the weight that they required to play competitively. And without regular practice and guidance from coaches, team doctors, and physical trainers, the problem simply multiplies over time.
As a result, these players have an increased risk of hypertension, diabetes, obstructive sleep apnea, and other weight-related conditions and diseases. This is because the weight that made them competitive players is now slowing them down.
The article points out that many of these players were encouraged throughout their career, starting at the high school level, to bulk up in order to be more effective linemen. And it’s a trend that has been growing since weight statistics were first garnered in the NFL.
From 1942 to 2011, NFL linemen have gained an average of .75 to 2 pounds every year. This is roughly twice the average weight gain for all other positions on the team – like quarterbacks, wide receivers, and kickers.
In addition, the Living Heart Foundation has been studying the problem in-depth with assistance from the NFL players’ union. Their research has found that roughly two-thirds of all retired football players had a body mass index (BMI) of more than 30. This BMI classifies them as morbidly obese.
Because of this noticeable weight gain, obstructive sleep apnea in particular becomes a large problem. Many former linemen and players in all positions have reported that they struggle with sleep apnea. This includes Hall of Famer Reggie White, who had sleep apnea, and who passed away in 2004 from cardiac arrhythmia.
Obesity and related health conditions – especially OSA – is clearly a problem in this high-profile profession. But the good news is that as awareness grows, so does the number of former football players who are taking steps to tackle the issues.
The New York Times story cited a number of players who are working hard to mitigate their post-career weight gain. And luckily, obstructive sleep apnea’s reputation as one of the most common sleeping conditions in the country is growing. Because of this, more and more people of all professions are seeking help and treatment.
Do you struggle with weight gain, and suspect you may have obstructive sleep apnea? Take a cue from the football pros.
Talk to your doctor to form a diet and exercise plan, and obtain an at-home diagnostic test to check for OSA. This sleeping condition may hinder your ability to lose weight.
By being proactive, and making a few lifestyle changes, anyone can address a lifelong obesity or sleep apnea problem – even professional football players.
Need help getting started on sleeping and feeling better? Contact us to get back to your healthy and energized self!