Baseball season is almost over, which means that football season will be here soon. NFL players have a short burst of glory which they often suffer health problems from during the rest of their lives. These are big guys, and for them it’s a job, so they often gain weight on purpose in order to mount a more intimidating defense. More than half of all professional football players are considered overweight or obese. Since weight gain often leads to heart disease, are these men headed for trouble in the future?

The answer is no: Former professional football players with large bodies don’t appear to have the same risk factors for heart disease as their non-athletic counterparts IF they keep in shape after they retire. Compared to other men in a similar age range, retired NFL players had a significantly lower prevalence of diabetes, hypertension, sedentary lifestyles and metabolic syndrome. Staying physically fit earlier in life might have offset the risks associated with a large body size.

Researcher Alice Chang says, “Despite their large body size, retired NFL players do not have a greater prevalence of heart disease risk factors when compared to the general population. In fact, other factors such as age and high cholesterol levels were better predictors for heart disease than the body size of the former athletes in our study.”

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