Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Knock me over with a feather

According to a recent investigation, NFL athletes die young far more often than their counterparts in other sports.

The article that I linked mentioned weight-related issues, primarily among the lineman class. "My doctor asked me, 'How many 320-pound men who are 80 years old do you see walking around?' That's when the lightbulb came on over my head," Mandarich said.

Mandarich is former Green Bay tackle Tony Mandarich. His doctor makes a good point, echoed by many of the other medical professionals in the piece:
"These guys live such an extreme lifestyle with their weight that they are going to be prone to hypertension, diabetes and coronary artery disease. There is no question about it," said Dr. Barry Maron, director of the Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Center at the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation.

Kevin Guskiewicz, director of the Sports Medicine Research Laboratory at the University of North Carolina, is conducting research for the association on the issue. He said he is alarmed at the information he sees.

"We are finding a number of health issues among these players," Guskiewicz said. They clearly have higher prevalence of cardiovascular disease and hypertension, especially in the offensive and defensive linemen. And it clearly is higher than in the general population."

The relatively recent explosion in the number of 300-pound linemen "presents a frightening picture in terms of what we might expect 20 years from now," said Dr. Sherry Baron, who studied the issue in 1994 for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Dr. Baron's study was conducted on behalf of the NFL Players Association. Oddly, they have declined comment for this article. The league itself is not forthcoming:

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello dismissed the Scripps Howard study, saying: "The issue of obesity in our society transcends sports and must be dealt with in a comprehensive, responsible way. This media survey contributes nothing."

Tagliabue wouldn't comment for this article.

The NFL also criticized a 2003 study by University of North Carolina endocrinologist Joyce Harp. Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the study found that 56 percent of NFL players were obese according to their body-mass indexes -- the government standard based on height and weight.

That's not odd, but it is creepy. Um, many of your athletes are dying off. Many others have terrible health problems due to the ravages of your sport, essentially trading health after retirement for the opportunity to perform at the highest and most competitive level. Have you seen guys like Chuck Bednarik and Ray Neitschke? How many more like them have trouble just walking around after absorbing the equivalent of hundreds of 25-mph car crashes without cars?

Oh - and that elephant in the room isn't a nose tackle. It's steroids. Notice how the article never uses that word? Notice that Bill Romanowski wasn't busted until he quit the game and wrote a book? Notice how Lyle Alzado's warnings may as well have been written in Etruscan?

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