Cases of sleep apnea are highly prevalent among National Football League retirees, in particular linemen, according to data presented at the American College of Cardiology's Annual Scientific Session.
Researchers looked at 167 retired NFL players and found that 60 percent of linemen experienced an average of 18.1 episodes of sleep-disordered breathing per hour. According to a United Press International article, the linemen also had an average body-mass index of 34.2 — well above what is considered obese. An estimated 18 million Americans have sleep apnea, which is often associated with people who are overweight. According to Margaret Moline, PhD, and Lauren Broch, PhD, two sleep specialists at New York Weill Cornell Medical Center, as a person gains weight, especially in the trunk and neck area, "the risk of sleep-disordered breathing increases due to compromised respiratory function." Dr. Virend Somers, who led the study, told United Press International that the findings show that retired athletes should carefully monitor their weight and health after their level of physical activity declines. The study also found that 45 percent of linemen and 32 percent of non-linemen experience high blood pressure.