The New York times discusses the health problems of football players, including obstructive sleep apnea:
According to a 2003 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, 14 percent of N.F.L. players had obstructive sleep apnea, a disease that impairs breathing and is known to affect large, muscular individuals like football linemen more often than people of average size. Reggie White, a Hall of Fame defensive lineman, died at 43 in 2004 after having cardiac arrhythmia, but he also had sleep apnea, which may have contributed to his death.
With more football linemen weighing much more than 300 pounds, doctors said they expected sleep apnea to become more prevalent .
“The primary treatment for sleep apnea is to lose weight, and they can’t,” said Dr. Allan Levy, an associate team physician with the Giants, who is assisting with this week’s screening. “There’s no such thing as a 225-pound offensive lineman. We try to make certain that they understand that they’ve got to come down in weight when they retire. All of my offensive lineman from the Giants’ two Super Bowl wins have all lost at least 50 pounds. They’re all in excellent health. You see some of the other guys, and they’re just huge. They’ve got all kinds of problems.
“The problem with sleep apnea is in the neck. A 17½-inch neck is usually where the problem begins. When they sleep, the muscles relax in the body. Now the weight of their neck clasps down on their airway. They stop breathing. They momentarily wake up, then the cycle starts over again, and they never get into deep sleep. They develop heart disease and hypertension. Sleep apnea is a killer. One of the kids that played for us, we did a sleep study on, had 440 awakenings during the night.”
The most common treatment for sleep apnea involves wearing a mask that supplies a stream of air through the nose during sleep.
Increased neck size and obesity are 2 major risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea.