Both current and former football players face the dangers of obstructive sleep apnea, the disorder that contributed to the tragic death of former Green Bay Packers superstar Reggie White.

Two of the major indicators for sleep apnea are neck size and body mass index. Perhaps as many as 75% of professional football players, and many college and even high school players, qualify for the neck size indicator, which is 17 inches. And despite being in sensational football condition, many qualify for the body mass index indicator, which is 30 and above.

These indicators plus questions relating to sleep are vitally important for team doctors to consider in player physical examinations. Sleep apnea can be treated very easily, and doing so would likely enhance the performance of athletes who think they are sleeping well, but are constantly exhausted. Certainly, it could reduce the risk of other serious diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, asthma, diabetes and more, and likely would prevent some premature deaths among athletes.

Realistically, any athlete who meets the neck and body mass indicators should consider whether they snore and gasp at night, are feeling exhausted during the day, and then consider talking with their doctor or a physician who specializes in sleep disorders. Some athletes who might wish to think about this are shot-putters, weight lifters, wrestlers and more.

Why take the chance?

Steve Gardner