Sleep-disordered breathing in the National Football League

Sleep. 2010 Jun;33(6):819-24. doi: 10.1093/sleep/33.6.819.


Study objectives: Prior studies have suggested that the prevalence of sleep disordered breathing (SDB) among players in the National Football League (NFL) is disproportionately high. SDB can increase cardiovascular disease risk and is correlated with hypertension. NFL players have a higher prevalence of hypertension, and we sought to determine the prevalence of SDB among players the NFL and the associations of SDB with anthropometric measures and cardiovascular risk factors.

Design: Cross-sectional cohort study.

Setting: NFL athletic training facilities from April to July 2007.

Participants: A total of 137 active veteran players from 6 NFL teams.

Measurements: This evaluation of SDB among players in the NFL used a single-channel, home-based, unattended, portable, sleep apnea monitor. Multiple domains of self-reported sleep were assessed. Weight, body mass index, body fat percentage, neck circumference, waist circumference, and waist-to-hip ratio, as well as blood pressure, cholesterol, and fasting glucose concentrations were measured.

Results: The mean respiratory disturbance index was 4.7 (+/- 12), with a median (interquartile range) of 2 (1,4). The prevalence of at least mild SDB (RDI > or = 5) was 19% (95% confidence interval, 12.8%-26.6%). Only 4.4% (95% confidence interval, 1.6%-9.2%) of participants had respiratory disturbance index of 15 or greater. Linemen and non-linemen were not different in their prevalence or severity of SDB. No single anthropometric measure was highly associated with SDB, and SDB was not well correlated with cardiovascular risk factors.

Conclusions: The prevalence of SDB in active NFL players was modest, predominately mild, and positively associated with several measures of adiposity. SDB did not account for excess cardiovascular risk factors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anthropometry / methods
  • Blood Glucose
  • Blood Pressure
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight
  • Body Weights and Measures
  • Cholesterol / blood
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Football / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / blood
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / epidemiology*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Waist Circumference
  • Waist-Hip Ratio


  • Blood Glucose
  • Cholesterol