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Pro Athletes and Sleep Apnea

No, isn’t just out-of-shape middle-aged guys who are at risk of sleep apnea. Women, children, and, surprisingly, certain types of athletes who are at the peak of competitive fitness are in danger of Sleep Apnea. Several sports actually have players who have much higher incidences of sleep apnea than the general public. cites  a 2003 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, linking pro athletes and sleep apnea – “Pro football players in the United States are five times more likely to develop sleep apnea than their non-athletic counterparts. Those at the highest risk were linebackers and defensive players charged with stopping quarterbacks and rushers alike—34 percent of these athletes experience sleep apnea, the study noted.”

Researchers theorize that all that muscle in the neck area may be the reason. The Dental Sleep Review Magazine quotes Dr. Helene A. Ensellem, MD ‘“Increased neck circumference and short neck are attributes seen in some athletes (such as swimmers, wrestlers, and football players) that may increase the risk of sleep apnea,” says Dr. Ensellem, director of the Center for Sleep and Wake Disorders in Chevy Chase, Md, in an e-mail to Dental Sleep Corner. Ensellem co-authored a 2005 study titled “Sleep Apnea and Sports Performance”’

Because sleep apnea is not only dangerous in itself (former Green Bay Packers’ defense, Reggie White, died of complications from sleep apnea at the age of 43), but causes lack of sleep, it can lead to sports injuries. The muscles do not have the rest they need to recover from the strain of training. In addition, constant fatigue can lead to behavior problems.

For this reason, Dr. Ensellem recommends that dentists screen athletes for sleep apnea – often they can be fitted with an oral appliance, which looks like a mouth-guard and helps move the jaw forward while they’re sleeping, opening up the airways and letting sleep apnea sufferers get a good night’s sleep. It quiets snoring, too, so it lets their partners sleep soundly, as well.

If the sleep apnea is severe, it may be necessary to wear a continuous positive airway pressure machine, known as a CPAP mask.
For a light view of athletes and sleep masks, check out this blog, with a whimsical set of photos of what famous football players might look like in these masks.

In the meantime, if you’re in the Portland, Oregon area, you can get your snoring checked at the Dental Sleep Apnea Clinic.

Stop Snoring, Sleep Better, and Live Longer!

The Dental Sleep Apnea Clinic can help you find relief from your sleep apnea.  Contact us today to schedule your consultation.

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