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22-02-2012 | Cardiometabolic | Article

Risk for CVD mortality doubled in overweight NFL players


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MedWire News: Despite being elite athletes, National Football League (NFL) players with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 kg/m2 or more have an increased risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD) and mortality, show study findings.

"Our study found a doubling of CVD mortality risk for players with a BMI ≥30 kg/m2 compared to other players," write Sherry Baron (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA) and team in the American Journal of Cardiology.

They also report an increased risk for CVD mortality among defensive linemen compared with offensive linemen.

The findings arise from an analysis of 3439 retired NFL players from the 1959 through 1988 seasons. Player mortality through 2007 was compared with the general US population using the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) life-table analysis system. Height and weight during the last season played were determined using data reported annually by the NFL teams.

Players were followed up on average for 26.8 years after retirement from the NFL, and a total of 334 deaths were reported, 126 of which were attributed to CVD.

Compared with the general US population, overall mortality was 47% lower among NFL players, reports the team. Similarly, mortality from cancer and CVD was 42% and 32% lower, respectively.

In all, 34% of players had a playing-time BMI of 30 kg/m2 or above. Cox proportional hazard regression analysis revealed that these players had a twofold increased risk for death compared with their lower-weight counterparts after adjusting for age, race, and calendar year.

When the researchers examined CVD mortality by playing position, they found that defensive linemen had a 42% higher CVD mortality compared with the general population. However, this pattern was only observed for follow-up years before 2000.

Baron et al suggest that this may be due to the "increased media attention and expanded health promotion campaigns by the NFL and the NFL Players Association since the initial NIOSH report in 1994."

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012

By Nikki Withers