PENALTY! Research Shows Football Linked with High Blood Pressure (What??!!??)
He runs… he catches… he SCORES! But could players be scoring more than just a touch down? That may be the case according to a recent study published in the American Heart Association’s journal, Circulation.
A small study of 113 first year college football players from the Harvard Athlete Initiative suggests players, especially linemen, may develop high blood pressure over the course of their first season.
In this study, college football players were examined preseason and baseline data showed that 61% of players had normal blood pressures (Systolic BP [SBP] ≤120 and Diastolic BP [DBP] ≤80) and 39% had pre-hypertension (SBP 120-139 and/or DBP 80-89). Post-season assessments in these players revealed an increase in blood pressure showing 47% of players developed pre-hypertension and 14% had developed stage 1 hypertension. A control group of athletes from a varsity men’s rowing team who engaged in a similar amount of exercise and had similar family histories were used for comparison. Unlike football players, the rowers experienced positive blood pressure changes with a notable decrease in players with prehypertension from 29 players preseason to 21 post season. None of the rowers had hypertension during pre or postseason assessments. Researchers believe that the differences in blood pressure between the two groups was related to variations in training. Football players engage in more strength training exercises and were more likely to gain weight during the season while rowers participated in more endurance training and maintained or lost weight during season.
The study also noted that football players, mainly lineman far more than rowers experienced left ventricular hypertrophy, a form of cardiac remodeling strongly associated with high resting blood pressures. So why is this important? Emerging data indicates that increased blood pressure and structural changes in the heart in early adulthood is associated with cardiovascular disease risk later in life.
With that said, identification of high-risk groups at risk for early adult hypertension is critical. So although it is unknown as to what degree these findings apply to the larger population of young men who play in competitive high school or college football, it is very note worthy.
So what does this mean? Does football cause hypertension? NO! But further analyses and surveillance are needed by researchers to better understand the relationship and identify important opportunities to improve later-life cardiovascular health outcomes. In the meantime players can stay in the game by following the American Heart Association’s Simple 7 Plan:
1. Know and manage your blood pressure
2. Make healthy food choices
3. Stay active and exercise
4. Manage your blood sugar levels
5. Mange your cholesterol levels
6. Maintain a healthy weight
7. Stop and/or don’t start smoking