Abdominal body composition differences in NFL football players

J Strength Cond Res. 2014 Dec;28(12):3313-9. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000000650.


The purpose of this study was to examine visceral fat mass as well as other measures abdominal body composition in National Football League (NFL) players before the start of the season. Three hundred and seventy NFL football players were measured before the start of the season using dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry. Regional fat and lean mass was measured for each player. Players were categorized into 3 groups based on positions that mirror each other: linemen; linebackers/tight ends/running backs and wide receivers/defensive backs. Significant differences were observed between the position groups for both lean and fat regional measurements. However, the magnitude of difference was much greater for fat measures than lean measures. Additionally, a threshold was observed (∼114 kg) at which there is a greater increase in fat accumulation than lean mass accumulation. The increase in fat accumulation is distributed to the abdominal region where thresholds were observed for subcutaneous abdominal fat accumulation (12.1% body fat) and visceral abdominal fat accumulation (20.1% body fat), which likely explains the regional fat differences between groups. The results of this study suggest that as players get larger, there is more total fat than total lean mass accumulation and more fat is distributed to the abdominal region. This is of importance as increased fat mass may be detrimental to performance at certain positions. The thresholds observed for increased abdominal fat accumulation should be monitored closely given recent research observed that abdominal obesity predicts lower extremity injury risk and visceral adipose tissue's established association with cardiometabolic risk.

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon
  • Adiposity
  • Adult
  • Body Composition*
  • Body Weight
  • Football / classification*
  • Football / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Intra-Abdominal Fat*
  • Male
  • Subcutaneous Fat, Abdominal*
  • Young Adult