Fat football players


Ken Belson’s article in the New York Times of January 17 makes the good point that being big leads to success and megabucks for linemen in the National Football League but leads to lots of problems related to obesity – hypertension, type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, heart disease……, after they retire from football. This may be even more important than the scourge of head trauma sequelae that happens a lot to football players too. Furthermore he points out that the comorbidities of obesity are compounded by lots of back and joint pain that they also inherit from football fame, that impedes exercise later in life.

But I would debate his contention that this has a lot to do with being coached to purposely put on weight at a young age. Instead I would say this has much more to do with winning the lottery of being genetically endowed in the first place. Indeed several of the individual player’s stories in Ken Belson’s article include a non-NFL player family history of similar “problems.” Remember from many fat science columns that it is just as hard to put on weight as it is to lose it.

I wonder what happens to sumo wrestlers when they retire. This is a question that Mr. Belson, who wrote about Japan in the Tokyo bureau for The New York Times from 2001 to 2004, might be uniquely equipped to answer.

Someday football will follow that other great American sport, boxing, into disrepute, and mothers will try to prevent their kids from playing it. America will be even greater for it.

1. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/17/sports/football/the-nfls-obesity-scourge.html?em_pos=small&emc=edit_mm_20190119&nl=&nl_art=0&nlid=83426110emc%3Dedit_mm_20190119&ref=headline&te=1. A version of this article appears in print on Jan. 20, 2019, on Page SP1 of the New York edition with the headline: The N.F.L.’s Other Scourge: Obesity.

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