Nav: Home

Weights of Division III football linemen up 38 percent since 1956, Tufts researchers report

July 12, 2016

BOSTON (July 12, 2016)--Professional football players are heftier now than they were decades ago, but a new study from researchers at Tufts University School of Medicine shows that even players for less-prominent college football programs are getting bigger. The Tufts researchers report that the average weight of offensive linemen in a Division III collegiate football conference has increased nearly 38 percent since 1956, while the average male's weight increased only 12 percent during the same timeframe. These findings are published in the Journal of Athletic Training and highlight the need to modify athletes' post-football lifestyles in order to prevent long-term health problems.

"Increases in weight and body mass index (BMI) are associated with cholesterol disorders, diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular diseases. The results of our study emphasize the importance of helping these players to develop a healthy post-football lifestyle in order to reduce their risks of serious long-term health complications," says senior author David J. Greenblatt, M.D., Louis Lasagna Professor in the Department of Integrative Physiology and Pathobiology at Tufts University School of Medicine and a member of the Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics graduate program faculty at the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences at Tufts.

The researchers examined the football rosters of the 10 colleges and universities in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) from 1956 through 2014 in five-year intervals. Players were grouped by field position (quarterbacks, running backs, offensive linemen, etc.). Weight, height and BMI were recorded for each player from game programs and rosters available online. The data for the positional groups were then compared with data from a control group at corresponding time intervals, made up of males aged 20-29 from the general population.

For offensive linemen, the mean weight increased nearly 38 percent, while the control group experienced only a 12 percent increase. Overall changes in height for the offensive linemen increased only 3.8 percent. For players in skill positions, such as quarterbacks, wide receivers and kickers, the mean weight changes over time were similar to those in the control group.

The researchers also analyzed BMI, which takes into account both height and weight, used as an approximation of body fat. The average body mass index of NESCAC offensive linemen in 1956 was 26, while it was nearly 34 in 2014. By 2014 nearly one out of three NESCAC offensive linemen had a BMI over 35, while in 1956 there were no offensive linemen in the conference with a BMI over 35. A BMI over 25 is considered overweight, and over 30 is considered obese.

"Through selective recruiting, weight training and nutrition ('hyper-nutrition'), we end up with a population of large linemen," says Greenblatt. "The public health issue is that everybody involved with American football needs to develop concerted ways to assure the health of players when their football days are over. This includes making programs available to help players transition into post-football life with healthy habits. The same can also be said for several other collegiate sports. Coaches, trainers and nutritionists can all play an important role in the long-term health of their players."

According to the CDC's 2015 statistics, more than one-third of U.S. adults are obese, putting them at a higher risk for all causes of death and a number of chronic health conditions. These include high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnea and osteoarthritis.

The NCAA organizes collegiate sports into three divisions. Division I represents the highest level of athletic competition in collegiate sports. Colleges and universities in Division II and III sponsor fewer sports and are typically smaller. The emphasis in Division III athletics is on maximizing the number and range of athletic opportunities available to students.

Previous studies which highlighted the increase in sizes of collegiate football players have focused primarily on athletes in Division I conferences. Little research has been done on the body-size trends among players in Division III football programs. The researchers note that further studies are needed to determine if athletes in other Division III conferences, along with those in the NESCAC, have experienced similar changes in size over the same period of time.
-end-
The first author on this study is Kayla R. Elliott, B.A., M.B.S., a graduate of the Master of Science in Biomedical Sciences program at Tufts University School of Medicine who did this work as part of her thesis. Additional authors are Jerold S. Harmatz, B.A., research assistant professor in the Department of Integrative Physiology and Pathobiology, Tufts University School of Medicine, and Yanli Zhao, B.S, senior research technician in the Department of Integrative Physiology and Pathobiology, Tufts University School of Medicine. Both Harmatz and Zhao are members of Greenblatt's lab.

There was no outside funding for this study.

Elliott, K.R.; Harmatz, J.S.; Zhao, Y.; and Greenblatt, D.J. (2016). "Body size changes among National Collegiate Athletic Association New England Division III football players, 1956-2014: Comparison with age-matched population controls." Journal of Athletic Training, 51(5): 373-381 DOI: 10.4085/1062-6050-51.5.14

About Tufts University School of Medicine and the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences

Tufts University School of Medicine and the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences are international leaders in medical and population health education and advanced research. Tufts University School of Medicine emphasizes rigorous fundamentals in a dynamic learning environment to educate physicians, scientists, and public health professionals to become leaders in their fields. The School of Medicine and the Sackler School are renowned for excellence in education in general medicine, the biomedical sciences, and public health, as well as for innovative research at the cellular, molecular, and population health level. The School of Medicine is affiliated with six major teaching hospitals and more than 30 health care facilities. Tufts University School of Medicine and the Sackler School undertake research that is consistently rated among the highest in the nation for its effect on the advancement of medical and prevention science.

Tufts University, Health Sciences Campus

Related Health Articles:

Health records pin broad set of health risks on genetic premutation
Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Marshfield Clinic have found that there may be a much broader health risk to carriers of the FMR1 premutation, with potentially dozens of clinical conditions that can be ascribed directly to carrying it.
Attitudes about health affect how older adults engage with negative health news
To get older adults to pay attention to important health information, preface it with the good news about their health.
Geographic and health system correlates of interprofessional oral health practice
In the current issue of Family Medicine and Community Health (Volume 6, Number 2, 2018, pp.
Bloomberg era's emphasis on 'health in all policies' improved New Yorkers' heart health
From 2002 to 2013, New York City implemented a series of policies prioritizing the public's health in areas beyond traditional healthcare policies and illustrated the potential to reduce cardiovascular disease risk.
Youth consider mobile health units a safe place for sexual health services
Mobile health units bring important medical services to communities across the country.
Toddler formulas and milks -- not recommended by health experts -- mislead with health claims
Misleading labeling on formulas and milks marketed as 'toddler drinks' may confuse parents about their healthfulness or necessity, finds a new study by researchers at the NYU College of Global Public Health and the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at the University of Connecticut.
Women's health has worsened while men's health has improved, trends since 1990 show
Swedish researchers have studied health trends among women and men aged 25-34 from 1990-2014.
Health insurance changes, access to care by patients' mental health status
A research letter published by JAMA Psychiatry examined access to care before the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) and after the ACA for patients grouped by mental health status using a scale to assess mental illness in epidemiologic studies.
Community health workers lead to better health, lower costs for Medicaid patients
As politicians struggle to solve the nation's healthcare problems, a new study finds a way to improve health and lower costs among Medicaid and uninsured patients.
Public health guidelines aim to lower health risks of cannabis use
Canada's Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines, released today with the endorsement of key medical and public health organizations, provide 10 science-based recommendations to enable cannabis users to reduce their health risks.
More Health News and Health Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Rethinking Anger
Anger is universal and complex: it can be quiet, festering, justified, vengeful, and destructive. This hour, TED speakers explore the many sides of anger, why we need it, and who's allowed to feel it. Guests include psychologists Ryan Martin and Russell Kolts, writer Soraya Chemaly, former talk radio host Lisa Fritsch, and business professor Dan Moshavi.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#538 Nobels and Astrophysics
This week we start with this year's physics Nobel Prize awarded to Jim Peebles, Michel Mayor, and Didier Queloz and finish with a discussion of the Nobel Prizes as a way to award and highlight important science. Are they still relevant? When science breakthroughs are built on the backs of hundreds -- and sometimes thousands -- of people's hard work, how do you pick just three to highlight? Join host Rachelle Saunders and astrophysicist, author, and science communicator Ethan Siegel for their chat about astrophysics and Nobel Prizes.