Although hypertension is common in American-style football (ASF) players, the presence of concomitant vascular dysfunction has not been previously characterized. We sought to examine the impact of ASF participation on arterial stiffness and to compare metrics of arterial function between collegiate ASF participants and nonathletic collegiate controls. Newly matriculated collegiate athletes were studied longitudinally during a single season of ASF participation and were then compared with healthy undergraduate controls. Arterial stiffness was characterized using applanation tonometry (SphygmoCor). ASF participants (n = 32, 18.4 ± 0.5 years) were evenly comprised of Caucasians (n = 14, 44%) and African-Americans (n = 18, 56%). A single season of ASF participation led to an increase in central aortic pulse pressure (27 ± 4 vs 34 ± 8 mm Hg, p <0.001). Relative to controls (n = 47), pulse wave velocity was increased in ASF participants (5.6 ± 0.7 vs 6.2 ± 0.9 m/s, p = 0.002). After adjusting for height, weight, body mass index, systolic blood pressure, and diastolic blood pressure, ASF participation was independently predictive of increased pulse wave velocity (β = 0.33, p = 0.04). In conclusion, ASF participation leads to changes in central hemodynamics and increased arterial stiffness.
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