The Bottom Line: Size does matter
Recently, there has been a continual influx of published articles about big football players who face heart risks, especially, defensive linemen. In a recent study published in the American Journal of Cardiology, researchers following 3,400 NFL players who were active between 1959 and 1988, found that defensive linemen had a 42 percent higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease compared with U.S men in general. The study looked at 498 defensive linemen, and found that 41 of them had died of a cardiovascular cause.
One can calculate their Body Mass Index (BMI) by using the chart below and comparing their body weight to their height.
The chart is useful for finding a relatively healthy weight, although often in athletes, muscle mass can cause one’s BMI to exceed the healthy weight and put them in the category of “overweight” or “obese”. The physician who completed the study suggests that a high BMI based on muscle mass is not so bad.
Researchers explained that once athletes graduate from college, retire from the pros, or simply no longer exercise at the same activity level, often continue eating the same number of calories and gain weight, which causes health problems such as high blood pressure, unhealthy cholesterol levels and obesity. NFL players in the study who had a BMI of 30 or higher during their careers were twice as likely to die of cardiovascular causes as their lighter peers. The fact is: size is important, especially once the athletes are no longer in the game- the focus should be to “Lose the fat” in order to maintain the health.
The average NFL lineman during a training session consumes between 5,500 and 10,000 calories per day, while burning about 2,000 to 3,000 calories during the double session practice days. The American Heart Association recommends that the average person should eat about 2000 calories per day and aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days of the week or, best of all, at least 30 minutes every day. The overall goal would be to spend as many calories per day as you consume. The average person burns about 77 calories per hour while they sleep and depending on your physical activity level, between 700- 1,200 calories during the day.
Most athletes enjoy a longer than average lifespan, but a study suggests that the bigger the athlete, the more likely that a long lifespan will be cut short by heart disease and cardiovascular complications. Of the 3,400 NFL players in the study, only 334 had died by 2007 which is about half the rate that would be expected based on the U.S norms- acting as evidence to support a longer lifespan in athletes. The best way to avoid becoming overweight as an athlete ages and becomes less and less active is to decrease the number of calories consumed, to adjust for a lifestyle with decreased activity levels.
American Heart Association. “Suggested servings from each food group.” American Heart Association. 14 Feb. 2012. The American Heart Association. 14 Feb. 2012. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyDietGoals/Suggested-Servings-from-Each-Food-Group_UCM_318186_Article.jsp .
“BMI Chart – Body Mass Index Chart .” Body Shaping tips. Body Shaping Tips. 14 Feb. 2012. http://bodyshapingtips.com/body_mass/bmi_chart/ .
Norton, Amy . “More evidence big football players face heart risks.” Chicago Tribune. 8 Feb. 2012. The Chicago Tribune. 14 Feb. 2012. www.chicagotribune.com/sports/sns-rt-us-football-heart-riskstre8172gq-20120208,0,6204013.story
Aaron Shaw is a passionate runner and triathlete. Aaron received his bachelors of science at Bowling Green State University in “Applied Health Science Health Specialization.” Aaron is currently pursuing his masters’ of science in Exercise Physiology with his focus in cardiopulmonary physiology and metabolism. He is also working as an Emergency/ Trauma Technician at Marietta Memorial Hospital in the Emergency Department. He truly enjoys helping others and learning about underlying mechanisms and causes of diseases. Aaron is focused on attending Physician Assistant school after obtaining his masters degree. He is currently working in the cardiopulmonary physiology lab in the Health and Human Service building on Main Campus as well as teaching human anatomy and physiology laboratory.
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