The NFL’s surprising occupational hazard: obesity that kills, PART 2

Today more then 350 NFL linemen weigh over 300 pounds.

Today we have a follow-up post from our colleague Len Jernigan of North Carolina.

A few weeks ago, we shared a post about a surprisingly common illness affecting retired NFL players: chronic obesity.

In 1990, less than 70 players in the NFL weighed more than 300 pounds. Today there are more than 350 who weigh that much. All this weight adds up to
higher death rates for retired NFL linemen than for the general public.

Retired NFL players are more likely to have medical conditions that go along with obesity like sleep apnea, metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, and high insulin and cholesterol levels. Put these together and the risk of deadly illnesses like heart disease, stroke and diabetes is also much higher.
So retired players are increasingly turning to diet, nutrition, and regular exercise to help them escape a deadly fate too soon. But pain from numerous injuries can make that hard to get back in shape. So can the fact that regular life lacks the structure of an NFL training program.

Former lineman Chris Samuels finds himself hindered by a neck injury that ended his career early. Sometimes, “just sleeping is kind of tough for me,” says Samuels. “Sometimes I feel great about getting up and going to work out, and other times by body’s hurting… When you’re retired, there’s no one pushing you… and, you’re really fighting for your life.”

Our society holds professional sports to a different standard than other workplaces. But we must acknowledge that, putting the events on the field aside, the culture of these sports can have a very harmful lifelong impact on those who play them.

Check back with us from time to time for more reports on professional athletes and their lesser-known work-related injuries.

Leonard T. Jernigan Jr. is the founder of the Jernigan Law firm, a highly experienced firm representing injured workers across North Carolina. An acclaimed attorney, author, and law professor specializing in workers’ compensation, Leonard T. Jernigan Jr. is listed in Best Lawyers in America and Super Lawyers.

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