Are Football Linemen at Higher Risk of Increased BP?

Football players at the collegiate level may be at higher risk for increased blood pressure and changes in size, shape, structure and function of the heart, with lineman at an even greater risk, according to a study published Dec. 5 in JACC: Cardiovascular Imaging.

Researchers, led by Jeffrey Lin, MD, FACC, examined 87 football participants, including 30 linemen and 57 non-linemen. Prior to the season, 57 percent of linemen and 51 percent of non-linemen met the criteria for pre-hypertension. However, after the season, 90 percent of linemen met the criteria for pre-hypertension or Stage 1 hypertension while only 49 percent of non-linemen, similar to the preseason, had elevated blood pressure. These changes in blood pressure, particularly among athletes who played at the lineman field positions, were accompanied by thickening of the heart walls and a mild but significant decline in contractile function.

The authors conclude that the pattern of heart remodeling seen among football lineman differs markedly from the “athletic heart” patterns common among endurance athletes and more closely approximate patterns seen in older populations with overt hypertension and hypertensive cardiovascular disease.

In an accompanying editorial, William A. Zoghbi, MD, MACC, explains that “the findings are important and point to a different cardiac adaptive response in linemen compared to non-linemen. While questions abound, the current investigation has highlighted this unusual adverse cardiac remodeling in sports with the hope of alerting players and their health care professionals, furthering research, and ultimately addressing ways to protect and improve the health of all athletes in team sports.”

Clinical Topics: Prevention, Sports and Exercise Cardiology, Vascular Medicine, Hypertension

Keywords: Athletes, Blood Pressure, Blood Pressure Determination, Football, Hypertension, Prehypertension, Research Personnel, Seasons, Soccer, Sports

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