College Football Linemen at Greater Risk of Heart Problems, Study Says

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Marji_football-players_111115According to a new study recently presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions in Orlando, Florida, college footballers who play in linemen positions may have a higher risk of certain heart problems than players in other positions.

A research team, led by Columbia University’s Dr. Jeffrey Lin, enrolled 87 college football players, including 30 linemen. Researchers assessed the heart structure and blood pressure of each player at the beginning and end of the season.

At the start of the season, each player had normal blood pressure. By the end of the season, researchers discovered that nine of the linemen had developed high blood pressure, compared to just four of the 57 players from other positions.

Furthermore, researchers discovered that linemen were more likely to experience a reduction in the subclinical left ventricular function and an increase in thickness of the heart muscle wall, compared to players from other positions. In fact, researchers noticed that the largest increase in blood pressure was found among linemen who experienced changes in their heart structure.

Dr. Lin explains suggests that linemen tend to be heavier than non-linemen, placing them at a higher risk for increased high blood pressure and decreased heart function over time.

Previous research has revealed the effect that football can have on the brain health of players. For example, a study published on the website of the Concussion Legacy Foundation in September 2015 supports the theory that repeated minor head trauma is the biggest risk to neurological health for footballers. Boston University researchers detected chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a condition that is caused by repetitive brain injury, in 95% of the deceased NFL players analyzed. Researchers concluded that this indicates there is an association between potential long term cognitive disease and playing football.

Because of this new study and previous studies, the American Academy of Pediatrics has issued new guidelines that can improve the safety of youths who play football.

“Other research has demonstrated football can have a negative impact on the brain, with increasing attention by the National Football League directed to concussions and how to prevent or treat them,” concludes Dr. Lin. “Now, we are developing an understanding of football’s impact on the structure and function of the heart as well.”

Sources for Today’s Article:
Whiteman, H., “Football linemen at greater risk for heart problems, study finds,” Medical News Today web site, November 10, 2015;
McIntosh, J., “New study finds brain disease in 95% of deceased NFL players,” Medical News Today web site, September 21, 2015;