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Body Mass Index Unreliable Measure of High School Footballers

by Matrix Admin | Aug 01, 2011
Larger players still at risk for metabolic syndrome later in life

BALTIMORE – High school football players may be inaccurately defined as overweight or obese when using body mass index measurements, according to a study presented at American College of Sports Medicine’s 57th Annual Meeting in Baltimore.

A team of researchers examined 71 males from seven different high schools. Following an overnight fast, the investigators measured body weight, height, age-adjusted body mass index (BMI), body fat percent (BF%), fat mass and fat-free mass of the subjects. These measures would evaluate the effectiveness of BMI as a predictor of being overweight or obese. For the BMI evaluation, the subjects were split into three position groups: big (linemen), athletic (quarterbacks, tight ends, running backs and linebackers) and skilled (wide receivers and defensive backs).

Forty-five of the subjects were listed as normal weight according to BF% compared to 26 using BMI; 18 were considered overweight using BF% compared to 21 using BMI; and six ranked as obese using BF% compared to 24 using BMI. Thirty-nine of 69 (56.5%) athletes were misclassified as overweight or obese by BMI compared to BF%.

“The use of age-adjusted BMI percentile rank in high school football players is not effective for determining overweight/obesity levels as it can lead to misclassification of overweight and obese status,” said Gary D. Steffes. “This is especially true for bigger athletes such as linemen.”

These larger players’ muscular body composition may lead to overstated body mass indexes. However, players’ sizes may put them at risk for future health problems after their physically active playing days have ended.

The research team also looked at metabolic risk factors using American Heart Association criteria. These measurements also included body fat percent plus waist circumference, resting systolic and diastolic blood pressure, triglycerides, HDL cholesterol and blood glucose.

With this portion of the study, the research team set out to determine the prevalence of metabolic syndrome risk factors in high school football players and examine if the prevalence varied according to body fat percent. The study concluded that despite their high level of physical activity, these athletes demonstrate a prevalence of metabolic syndrome risk factors that may put them at risk for developing cardiovascular disease later in life.

The most prevalent risk factor was low HDL cholesterol followed by elevated blood glucose. The study revealed a significant positive correlation between BF% and waist circumference, diastolic blood pressure and blood glucose, and a significant negative correlation between BF% and HDL cholesterol.

Significant positive correlations were observed between waist circumference and systolic blood pressure and diastolic BP.

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The American College of Sports Medicine is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world. More than 35,000 international, national and regional members and certified professionals are dedicated to advancing and integrating scientific research to provide educational and practical applications of exercise science and sports medicine.

The conclusions outlined in this news release are those of the researchers only, and should not be construed as an official statement of the American College of Sports Medicine.

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