Obstructive Sleep Apnea among Players in the National Football League: A Scoping Review

J Sleep Disord Ther. 2017;6(5):278. doi: 10.4172/2167-0277.1000278. Epub 2017 Nov 23.


Objective: Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a common sleep-disordered breathing condition that has emerged as a significant public health problem given its increased prevalence over the past decade. The high prevalence of obesity and large waist circumference among NFL players are two risk factors that might contribute to the high susceptibility of football players to develop OSA. National Football League linemen might be particularly vulnerable since they tend to have a higher body mass index. In this scoping review, we aim to bring attention to the limited research regarding OSA among National Football League players and highlight the negative consequences of OSA in an attempt to increase awareness of the urgent need for further research in this area.

Methods: Search terms associated with obstructive sleep apnea and football were used to examine Google Scholar, EMBASE, CINAHL, PubMed, ProQuest, and Web of Science Plus for relevant studies. All relevant studies were included and documented.

Results: Findings included (n=4) studies of interest. All 4 studies revealed a near or slightly above 50% prevalence of OSA in the investigated cohorts (mostly retired NFL linemen). Most participants in the study (active NFL players) showed symptoms associated with a sleep-disorder breathing condition (snoring).

Conclusion: OSA requires more attention from the research and medical community. As suggested by results in the 4 studies included in this paper, OSA and associated symptoms are prevalent in the NFL population. Further research is required to investigate the extent of OSA and OSA risk in this population. There is an urgent need to conduct OSA risk surveillance in the athletic community.

Keywords: Hypertension; Insufficient sleep; Obstructive sleep apnea; Sleep Apnea.