Exercise may offset NFL players' heart risks

May 26, 2009 2:35:09 PM PDT
More than four million kids between the ages of six and 17 play some sort of football and many dream of playing professional football someday. But as the size of football players has increased over the years, so has concern that this might put them at a greater risk for heart disease.

That was the focus of a study by Dr. Andrew Tucker, of Union Memorial Hospital and the Baltimore Ravens head team physician. It's part of the NFL committee on cardiovascular health.

They studied 500 active players and found compared to non-players, the NFL guys did have a higher prevalence for high blood pressure, but fewer reported smoking. The NFL players also had a lower prevalence of blood glucose problems and similar cholesterol levels.

Dr. Tucker said, "Vigorous activity appears to significantly decrease or lessen the effect of size on cardiovascular risks. "

Still, this gives linemen something to think about for the future. "I don't think you're going to train the exact same when you retire, so you have to make some lifestyle changes so you can have a good quality of life down the road," Justin Bannan of the Baltimore Ravens said.

And at least one Eagles player has already taken that advice. Shawn Andrews shed 60 pounds a few years ago. He lost a young friend due to heart attack and says that scared him to lose weight and become healthier.

The full study on size and heart risk can be found in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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