Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Tackling Sleep Disorders in the National Football League

A new study in the journal SLEEP found that football players have a higher risk of sleep-related breathing disorders (SRBD) than men in the general population.

The study included 137 NFL players from six teams. Each athlete took an at-home sleep test. This test determined if a player stopped breathing during his sleep. It also measured how often the pauses occurred and for how long.

Results indicated that 19 percent of the football players had sleep apnea. In contrast, experts estimate that sleep apnea affects four percent of men in the U.S.

Five percent of the players had moderate to severe sleep apnea. Fourteen percent had a mild form of the condition.

The NFL players also took a sleep questionnaire. Snoring was reported by 100 percent of the players. Observed pauses in breathing and daytime sleepiness were reported by approximately a quarter of players.

Surprisingly, linemen did not demonstrate a higher risk of SRBD than non-linemen. Past studies indicate that linemen have an especially high risk of sleep apnea.

One study found that linemen had a 50 percent greater chance of death due to heart disease than the general population. That study also indicated that they had a 3.5 times greater risk in comparison to other football players.

The reason? Linemen often have a higher body mass index. They also have heavier weights and larger neck sizes. These factors can contribute to sleep apnea.

Untreated sleep apnea can raise a person’s risk for cardiovascular disease and death. Physicians recommend treating sleep apnea with oral appliance therapy or CPAP.

Reggie White was a Pro Football Hall of Fame member who suddenly died in 2004. Reports show that sleep apnea may have played a role in his death. After his death, NFL trainers encouraged larger players to get tested.

The Pittsburgh Steelers raised awareness for sleep apnea last December. Read more here.

Image by Joy Banerjee

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The Official Blog of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM) is intended as an information source only. Content of this blog should not be used for self-diagnosis or treatment, and it is not a substitute for medical care, which should be provided by the appropriate health care professional. If you suspect you have a sleep-related breathing disorder, such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), you should consult your personal physician or visit an AASM-accredited sleep disorders center. The AADSM, and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, as the managing agent of the AADSM, assume no liability for the information contained on the Official Blog of the AADSM or for its use.