Bryan Altman, CBS Local Sports
Most NFL players are considered by many to be finely tuned machines that are the embodiment of physical health that we all strive for. However, according to a new study released by Harvard University, players that play certain positions on the football field are at a much higher risk of suffering from heart issues than others.
The study looked at 87 freshman college football players and studied how their blood pressure, heart rate and heart muscle changed over the course of a season. Their findings revealed that linemen on both the defensive and offensive sides of the ball suffered the most adverse effects over the course of a year.
“Over the course of just one season, there was an increase in the incidence of high blood pressure among football players, and the linemen tended to be affected the most,” lead researcher Dr. Jeffrey Lin told HealthDay News. “They developed thicker walls of their heart muscle, and they had decreases in the function of their heart as well.”
Lin theorized that in addition to the sheer size of linemen compared to other players on the field, a major reason that linemen struggle with heart health is due to the demands of their position – not running much but exerting force and energy on every play for the most part.
“I think there’s something intrinsic to the way linemen train and play that contributes to the development of high blood pressure,” Lin said.
At the beginning of the year, none of the 30 offensive linemen taking part in the study exhibited signs of high blood pressure. By the end of the season, nine of the 30 had developed high blood pressure while only four of the 57 non-linemen had done so.
“Perhaps these are the folks we should be following more carefully through a football season and through their careers, and think of treating them with medication once they reach a certain threshold of blood pressure,” Lin said.
Lin also alluded to the fact that linemen are often encouraged to “bulk up” as opposed to engage in healthy eating habits during the offseason, something Lin thinks could help the athletes moving forward.
“I don’t know how much they encourage that during the season or off-season, but I think it could help,” he said. “They don’t get a lot of aerobics during the season. That’s just the way it is.”
Bryan Altman is, for some reason, an unabashed fan of the Rangers, Jets and Mets. If he absolutely had to pick a basketball team it would be the Knicks, but he’d gladly trade them for just one championship for either of his other three teams.