Healthy Habits Off the Field Are Critical to NFL Player Safety
We must promote healthy habits off the football field to ensure player safety
February 1, 2013
It's imperative that we take care of the physical and mental health of players during their time in the NFL and after they retire from the game. While it's always important to ensure a safe playing environment on the field, it's equally crucial to promote healthy habits outside of games and practice.
A significant, growing number of offensive and defensive linemen now tip the scales at 300 pounds or more when they're actively playing. After retirement, physical activity patterns change, while eating patterns stay the same and this often leads these men to become dangerously overweight and obese. Obesity leads to a host of health problems ranging from increased rates of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, heart disease and depression. In fact, a 2008 study by the Mayo Clinic found that 82 percent of retired NFL players under 50 had abnormal narrowing and blockages of their arteries relative to men of the same age and ethnicity in the general population.
My colleagues and I at Temple University Health System are currently collaborating with the Living Heart Foundation, the NFL Players Association, and surgical device company Covidien to promote healthy weight management among former professional football players living around Philadelphia. I believe collaborative programs like this—where players have a real voice and access to experts—will play a key role in improving players' safety regardless of major changes to the way they play football.