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Sleep-apnea risk and subclinical atherosclerosis in early-middle-aged retired National Football League players

Authors Luyster FS, Dunn RE, Lauderdale DS, Carnethon MR, Tucker AM, Vogel RA, Lincoln AE, Knutson KL, Pellman EJ, Strollo Jr PJ

Received 20 October 2016

Accepted for publication 30 November 2016

Published 21 February 2017 Volume 2017:9 Pages 31—38


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Professor Steven A Shea

Faith S Luyster,1 Reginald E Dunn,2 Diane S Lauderdale,3 Mercedes R Carnethon,4 Andrew M Tucker,5 Robert A Vogel,6 Andrew E Lincoln,2 Kristen L Knutson,7 Elliot J Pellman,8–10 Patrick J Strollo Jr11

1School of Nursing, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, 2Sports Medicine Research Center, MedStar Health Research Institute, Baltimore, MD, 3Department of Public Health Sciences, University of Chicago, 4Department of Preventive Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL, 5MedStar Sports Medicine, MedStar Union Memorial Hospital, Baltimore, MD, 6Cardiology Section, Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Denver, CO, 7Department of Medicine, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, 8ProHealth Care Associates, Lake Success, 9Department of Medicine, 10Department of Orthopedics, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY, 11Department of Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care Medicine, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, PA, USA

Purpose: Limited data from former National Football League (NFL) players suggest that obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) may be highly prevalent after retirement. It remains unclear whether the high prevalence of OSA in retired players is comparable to nonathletes. This retrospective analysis compared sleep apnea (SA) risk in retired NFL players to a community cohort (CARDIA Sleep study), and examined associations between SA risk and cardiovascular risk factors, including subclinical atherosclerosis.
Materials and methods: Retired NFL players (n=122) were matched to CARDIA Sleep participants by age ±2 years (range 37–55 years), body mass index ±2 kg/m2, race, and male sex. Participants underwent electron-beam computed tomography to measure coronary artery calcium (CAC) and completed the Berlin Questionnaire to determine SA risk. The presence of CAC was defined as an Agatston score >0.
Results: Retired NFL players had a greater prevalence of high SA risk than the matched CARDIA Sleep participants (27% vs 11.5%, P=0.002). Compared to the CARDIA Sleep participants, retired players were less likely to smoke, and had higher blood pressure, lower fasting glucose levels, and higher cholesterol levels. However, there was no difference in the prevalence of detectable CAC (30% vs 30%, P=1). In both players and the community cohort, SA risk was not significantly associated with CAC after controlling for age, race, and body mass index.
Conclusion: Retired NFL players have a greater prevalence of high SA risk but similar prevalence of CAC compared with a well-matched community cohort.

Keywords: sleep apnea, cardiovascular risk, coronary artery calcium, national football league

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