DEXA or BMI: clinical considerations for evaluating obesity in collegiate division I-A American football athletes

Clin J Sport Med. 2012 Sep;22(5):436-8. doi: 10.1097/JSM.0b013e31825d5d65.


Objective: To evaluate the relationship between body mass index (BMI) and %body fat (%Fat) in collegiate football athletes (FBA) compared with age-matched/gender-matched general population volunteers (comparison group, CG) and compare body composition and overweight/obese frequencies by BMI between FBA and CG.

Design: Cross-sectional.

Setting: Two Division I-A (D-IA) universities in Texas. Integrative Health Technologies (San Antonio, Texas) laboratory.

Participants: Football athletes (n = 156, 20.0 ± 1.3 years, 185.6 ± 6.5cm, 103.3 ± 20.4 kg). Comparison group (n = 260, 21.5 ± 2.7 years, 179.0 ± 7.6 cm, 86.3 ± 20.9 kg).

Statistical analysis: Body mass index and bone densitrometry (DEXA) body composition were assessed. Regression was used to predict %Fat from BMI in CG and FBA. To compare %Fat, fat mass (FM), fat-free mass (FFM), and weight (WT) between CG, FBA, linemen, and non-linemen, 1 × 4 analysis of variance was used. Chi-square analysis was used to compare the frequency of BMI ≥25 between groups.

Results: Body mass index differently predicted %Fat for CG (r = 0.643, SE = 6.258) and FBA (r =0.769, SE = 4.416). Body mass index cutoffs for overweight/obese corresponded to the following %Fat in each group [BMI ≥25 = 19.9% (CG) and 11.1% (FBA); BMI ≥30 = 27.3% (CG) and 20.2% (FBA)]. Football athletes had significantly higher WT, BMI, FFM, and frequency of BMI ≥25 with lower %Fat and FM than CG (α < 0.05). Linemen had the highest WT, BMI, FFM, %Fat, and frequency of BMI ≥25.

Conclusions: The relationship between BMI and %Fat differed between CG and FBA. Using current BMI thresholds for obesity in FBA may result in misleading inferences about health risk.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Athletes / statistics & numerical data*
  • Body Composition
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Football / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Obesity / diagnosis*
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Students / statistics & numerical data
  • Texas / epidemiology
  • Young Adult