With the NFL preseason already underway, excitement for the coming season is ramping up all around Bronco country. But it’s important to remember that the players who put their bodies on the line every week for our entertainment sometimes suffer dire consequences as a result of the punishment they put on their body. The NFL has been making strides to attempt to address these concerns. The most prominent concern is, of course, concussions, but the NFL has also been running a sleep apnea awareness campaign among its players and the public in an attempt to stave off the dangerous and even lethal consequences.

Now this awareness campaign is going to be profiled in an upcoming documentary by PBS, the Public Broadcasting System.

Sleep Apnea Risks in the NFL

You might think that athletes who are as healthy and active as NFL players would be less likely to have sleep apnea than the rest of us, but the opposite is true. A preliminary study suggested that as much as 60% of NFL linemen may have sleep apnea. When they conducted more rigorous study, they found that about 34% of linemen have sleep apnea and 14% of players overall. Even 14% is a very high proportion, three or four times that which is found in the general population.

The NFL has also had some high profile sleep apnea cases. For example, Hall of Famer Reggie White died of complications that were likely related to sleep apnea, and, according to Rolf Benirschke, a former kicker for the San Diego Chargers who also has sleep apnea, he died with his CPAP machine sitting, unused, at his bedside.

Current players are at risk, too. Percy Harvin, receiver for the Seattle Seahawks, was diagnosed with sleep apnea in 2010 at the age of 22. Sleep apnea may have contributed to his chronic migraines and his collapse on the field in which his heart stopped.

An Awareness Campaign

With 80% of sleep apnea sufferers undiagnosed, one of the biggest problems of treating sleep apnea is just making sure people are aware of the condition. As a result, the NFL has been sponsoring a public awareness campaign called “Tackling Sleep Apnea,” where current and former NFL players talk about their sleep apnea experiences and encourage their fellow players to get treatment. Although the campaign promotes CPAP as the solution, hopefully as more players become aware and begin being treated, those who cannot tolerate CPAP will understand that oral appliances are also a good treatment option.

The success of this awareness campaign has attracted nationwide attention, including PBS, which has decided it will make a documentary to help highlight the risks and profile what’s being done to help.

If you are suffering from sleep apnea and want to learn more about the condition or treatment options, please call (303) 691-0267 for an appointment with a Denver sleep dentist at the TMJ Therapy & Sleep Center of Colorado.