Page 133 - Athletic Health Handbook
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heart disease alone was responsible mass and its relationship to obesity of supplements and stimulants must
for over 20 percent of the deaths.2 and secondary health issues must also be questioned.
Comparing Major League Baseball be taken seriously. Across all playing
with the National Football League, positions, the average player in the The message that needs to be
the Scripps Howard study identified NFL weighs 248 pounds.2 Specifically transmitted, however, is that larger
a twofold increase in the incidence looking at offensive and defensive body size is associated with these
of death in football players before linemen, the average body weight greater cardiovascular risks. This
the age of 50. went from 280 lbs. to 320 lbs. in the message needs to be emphasized to
last 20 years. Looking at the entire developing junior high and high
Overuse Injuries and Arthritis 2005 NFL camp preseason roster, school players as well as to collegiate
500 players were listed as weighing players so that obtaining that magical
The effect of mass on tendons, liga- more than 300 lbs.2 300 lb. number does not continue
ments, and joints is a concern. The to grow exponentially. Finally, the
incidence of premature arthritis in In light of the recent deaths of influence of nutritional supplements,
the overweight individual is clearly NFL players Thomas Herrion, Korey anabolic steroids, and stimulants
elevated. Adding the pressures of Stringer, and Reggie White, NFL often utilized by players to increase
physical contact, aggressive weight commissioner Paul Tagliabue has body mass must also be factored into
training, and injury to the genetic requested medical experts to study the association of sudden premature
code of cartilage leads one to easily the risk of cardiovascular disease in death in the athlete.
surmise that accelerated wear will the league’s players. Sudden death
occur in the supersized athlete. in the athlete clearly has multiple Simply stated, bigger may not
etiologies and cannot be solely necessarily mean better as pertaining
Summary attributed to large size or obesity. to the longevity of the athlete’s career
Cardiomyopathy, arrhythmias, and and his life.
With the average weight of the NFL anomalies of coronary arteries all
player growing by 10 percent over the can lead to sudden death. The role
last 20 years, the influence of body


1. Harp JB, Hecht L. Obesity in the National Football League: Research letter. JAMA. 2005;293:1061-1062
2. Scripps Howard News Service study CBC, reported at: CBC Sports URL:
3. Mokdad AH, Marks JS, Stroup DF et al. Actual causes of death in the United States, 2000. JAMA. 2004;291:1238-1245.
4. George CF, Kab V, Levy AM. Increased prevalence of sleep-disordered breathing among professional football players (Letter).

N Engl J Med. 2003;348:367-368.


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