Differences in markers of cardiovascular disease between professional football players of West-Asian and Black African descent

J Sci Med Sport. 2012 May;15(3):266-71. doi: 10.1016/j.jsams.2011.10.007. Epub 2011 Dec 13.


Objectives: To examine the cardiovascular risk factors of professional football players of West-Asian and Black African descent competing in the 2010/11 Qatar Stars League.

Design: Ten out of twelve professional football clubs attended pre-participation screening. 100 West-Asian males from seven Gulf States and six Middle-Eastern countries and 90 Black males from seven African countries.

Methods: All players were screened using the FIFA pre-competition medical assessment, incorporating a physical examination, resting 12-Lead ECG, echocardiogram, with determination of total cholesterol, high and low density lipoprotein (HDL/LDL) and triglycerides.

Results: West-Asian football players had a higher prevalence of a family history (FH) of coronary heart disease (CHD) (25% vs. 12%, p = 0.025) compared to Black African players predominantly due to CHD in their fathers (14% vs. 6%, p<0.05). West-Asian players had higher total cholesterol levels (4.4 vs. 4.2 mmol/L, p = 0.025) and lower HDL levels (1.3 vs. 1.4 mmol/L, p = 0.004) than Black African players; remaining significant after adjusting for a FH of CHD. Positively, all lipid levels were clinically acceptable for both ethnicities. Finally, one in eight West-Asian and one in eleven Black African football players were regular smokers.

Conclusions: The prevalence of cardiovascular disease in West-Asia is increasing. This study observed clinically acceptable blood lipid profiles for both West-Asian and Black African football players. However, West-Asian players had a greater number of markers for CVD than their Black African counterparts despite being matched for physical activity levels. Targeted education with regards to diet, lifestyle and tobacco use is required for both ethnicities.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Asian People / statistics & numerical data*
  • Athletes / statistics & numerical data*
  • Biomarkers / blood*
  • Black People / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / blood*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / ethnology
  • Cholesterol / blood
  • Electrocardiography / methods
  • Humans
  • Lipoproteins, HDL / blood
  • Lipoproteins, LDL / blood
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Qatar / epidemiology
  • Smoking / blood
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Soccer*
  • Triglycerides / blood


  • Biomarkers
  • Lipoproteins, HDL
  • Lipoproteins, LDL
  • Triglycerides
  • Cholesterol