Study: NFL players battle OSA

Sunday, January 26, 2003

January 27, 2003

SAN DIEGO - A medical study of professional football players, cited in the latest issue (January 23, 2003) of The New England Journal of Medicine, suggests that obstructive sleep apnea may be present in young, physically fit men in whom the condition has previously gone undetected.

Conducted during the summer of 2002, the SleepTech / ResMed study involved more than 300 professional football players from eight randomly selected NFL teams (including the Chicago Bears, Jacksonville Jaguars, New England Patriots, New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, St. Louis Rams, Tennessee Titans, and the Washington Redskins) who were evaluated for the prevalence of sleep apnea.

The study found that the presence of sleep apnea among the pro football group was 14% overall, nearly five times higher than noted in previous studies of similarly aged adults. Further, the prevalence of sleep apnea in the higher risk players (linemen) was 34%. The findings are significant because men of similar size and age, whose physical health may not be as good as the athletes tested, may also have sleep apnea and go undiagnosed for many years.

The study illustrates that sleep apnea, once thought to be a relatively rare disorder limited to middle age and older men is widespread and affects people who appear to be otherwise healthy.

"Professional football players have some of the risk factors associated with sleep apnea but their age and physical condition previously would not have suggested a prevalence of the disorder until they were much

older," said Charles George, MD, Professor of Medicine, University of Western Ontario and Principal Investigator of the study. "Many physicians have never considered such a diagnosis in young, healthy individuals because sleep apnea was previously thought to be associated with middle aged or older individuals. The study strongly suggests that sleep apnea be considered as a possible condition for larger patients under 30 years of age."