Sleep apnea linked to death of “Minister of Defense”

Sunday, December 26, 2004

December 27, 2004

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. -   Legendary NFL football Reggie White died Sunday apparently from respiratory failure related to obstructive sleep apnea, according to his family.
White, knows as the “Minister of Defense,” retired from the Green Bay Packers in 2000 as the NFL’s all-time sack leader and was considered healthy and vibrant. But at 6'5" and 300 pounds, he also was a prime candidate for sleep apnea.
According to a 2002 study conducted by ResMed and SleepTech and published in the New England Journal of Medicine, 14% of 300 NFL football players tested had OSA, nearly five times higher than among similarly aged adults. A whopping 34% of the larger, more high-risk players (lineman) were diagnosed with the disorder.
While White’s family links his death to OSA, an autopsy will be performed to determine the exact cause.
Sleep apnea affects an estimated 20 million to 25 million people in the United States, many of whom are untreated. The disorder can cause, among other problems, heart disease, high blood pressure and daytime sleepiness.
White played 15 years with the Philadelphia Eagles, Green Bay Packers and Carolina Panthers. A member of the NFL's 75th anniversary team, White was elected to the Pro Bowl a record 13 straight times from 1986 to 1998. He was the NFL's defensive player of the year in 1987 and 1998.