A new study by University of North Carolina endocrinologist Joyce Harp and student Lindsay Hecht suggests that as many 56 per cent of players in the National Football League are obese.
The claim, which is not being taken seriously by the NFL used players' body-mass index, a height-to-weight ratio that doesn't consider body muscle versus fat. The players union said that bulging jerseys, are not proof that obesity is rampant in the league.
Former defensive tackle John Jurkovic begs to differ; he thinks players are bigger and often fatter in recent years and league pressure to intimidate opponents is to blame.Linemen and defensive players, are better blockers and harder to move if they are big. Statistics on the NFL web site were used to calculate BMIs for 2,168 NFL players, nearly all those playing in the 2003-04 season.
Almost all could be classed as overweight, and 56 per cent had BMIs of at least 30 - what doctors consider obese. Nearly half of the obese players were in the severely obese range, with a BMI of at least 35, and a small percentage were morbidly obese with a BMI of at least 40. The results were not unexpected given the pressures on professional athletes to increase their mass. It could have health implications however as previous studies documented obesity-related problems, including sleep apnea and high blood pressure in NFL players.
Players union spokesman Carl Francis said health and safety are "discussed all the time," and that while some players might be obese, it is not a major problem.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello labelled the study substandard and denied any proof obesity is worse in the NFL than in US society in general, where about 30 percent of adults are obese, based on BMI data. He does not regard it to be a credible medical study.