Abstract 5085: Cardiovascular Risk Factors and Coronary Atherosclerosis in Retired National Football League Players: Implications for Coronary Risk of Large Body Size in Athletes
A high prevalence of obesity exists among national football league (NFL) players as classified by body mass index (BMI). It has not been established whether this elevated BMI is associated with a greater prevalence of cardiovascular (CV) risk factors or coronary artery disease in former NFL players as in non-athletes. This study compared CV risk factors and subclinical coronary atherosclerosis among retired NFL players versus community controls. The design was a case-control study of retired NFL players against matched controls from the population-based Dallas Heart Study (DHS) and a second physically active sample from the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study (ACLS). CV risk factors were assessed by survey and health screening visit. Coronary atherosclerosis was determined with computed tomography measurements of coronary artery calcium (CAC). 201 NFL players completed measurements of CAC. Compared to DHS men, retired NFL players had a significantly lower prevalence of diabetes, hypertension, a sedentary lifestyle and the metabolic syndrome, yet a higher prevalence of impaired fasting glucose and hyperlipidemia. However, there was no significant difference in the prevalence of positive CAC (46 v 48.3%, p=0.69) or the distribution across subgroups of CAC (0 –10, 10 –100, 100 – 400, 400+, p=0.11) between the retired NFL players and DHS men. These results were not significantly different when controlling for ethnicity or linemen status. When compared to physically active controls (ACLS), retired NFL players had a greater BMI, waist size and prevalence of the metabolic syndrome, but no difference in other CV risk factors or CAC scores.
Conclusions: Despite their large body size, former NFL players do not have a greater prevalence of CV risk factors or amount of CAC than community controls when matched by BMI and/or age. Age and hyperlipidemia, not body size, were the most significant predictors of subclinical coronary atherosclerosis among retired NFL players.
This research has received full or partial funding support from the American Heart Association, AHA National Center.