A number of current and former Denver Broncos players, as well as other NFL greats, will ring in the new year with an event to raise awareness about sleep apnea and its related health risks.

Attendees will have the opportunity to meet NFL players, learn about sleep apnea, win prizes, and bid on sports memorabilia in a silent auction. The event runs from 6:30-10:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 3, at the ViewHouse in Centennial, Colorado, just south of Denver. Admission is free, but registration is required. Proceeds will benefit the Denver Fire Department, and the event will include the donation of free sleep apnea treatment to a Denver firefighter who is battling the life-threatening sleep disorder.


Players Aim to Sack Sleep Apnea

The function is sponsored by the NFL Players Association’s Denver chapter and the Pro Player Health Alliance (PPHA), the latter of which is dedicated to encouraging former NFL players to seek testing and treatment for sleep apnea. Event attendees are expected to include:

  • Demaryius Thomas: Current Broncos wide receiver, a three-time Pro Bowl pick, and a member of last season’s Super Bowl champion Broncos
  • Karl Mecklenburg: Former Broncos linebacker, a six-time Pro Bowler, and a member of the Broncos Ring of Fame and the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame
  • Jake Plummer: Former Broncos quarterback, a one-time Pro Bowl selection, and holder of numerous Broncos single-season passing records
  • Eric Dickerson: Former Rams running back, a six-time Pro Bowl pick, and the holder of the NFL record for most single-season rushing yards (2,105)
  • Earl Campbell: Former Oilers running back, a five-time Pro Bowler, a three-time NFL MVP, and the winner of the 1977 Heisman Trophy

Incidentally, many of the NFL stars slated to appear at the event—including former Cowboys center and Super Bowl champion Derek Kennard, former Cardinals wide receiver and Pro Bowler Roy Green, and former Vikings defensive lineman and Pro Bowler Carl Eller—have been diagnosed with and are undergoing treatment for sleep apnea. Kennard, Green and Eller are also on the PPHA leadership team.

Sleep Apnea Risk Factors

Sleep apnea is accompanied by an increased risk for heart attack, high blood pressure, stroke, and cardiac arrhythmia among other health problems. In fact, sleep apnea-related cardiac arrhythmia claimed the life of Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive end Reggie White in 2004.

Although sleep apnea can affect anyone regardless of age, gender or race, a 2009 study revealed that this common sleep disorder is rampant among former NFL players, particularly linemen. The study of nearly 170 former players found that 60 percent of linemen suffered from sleep apnea.

The occurrence of sleep apnea in football players is believed to be so high because so many players share multiple risk factors for the sleep disorder:

  • Being male: Men are more likely than women to develop sleep apnea
  • Being overweight: Obesity dramatically increases one’s risk for sleep apnea, and many linemen and other football players carry excess weight
  • Having a large neck size: Those with thick necks may have narrower air passages, and fat bands around the neck may restrict airflow

If you regularly snore loud enough to wake yourself or others; or if you often find yourself waking abruptly while choking or gasping for air; or if you experience increasing daytime drowsiness, it’s a good idea to talk with a doctor about the possibility of sleep apnea.

Denver neuromuscular dentist Dr. Kevin Berry has an extensive record of success helping patients tackle sleep apnea and restore healthy sleep with the use of oral appliances. To schedule your sleep apnea consultation, please call TMJ Therapy & Sleep Center of Colorado at (303) 691-0267.