Mayo Clinic helping athletes stay healthy, avoid unsafe bulk-up

UNDATED (MAYO) -- When we think of August, one thing is certain to come to mind: football.

It means football players are suiting up to get back out on the field.

As they gear up for the gridiron, many players eat more to bulk up -- alerting doctors and former players to put emphasis on paying attention to nutrition in athletes at a young age for better health in the future.

Athletes are training for speed, agility, and quickness. They’re young players with a big dreams.

As young athletes grow into their careers in football, they’re going to want to bulk up.

But staying healthy throughout their lives means proper training on the field and off.

Retired NFL lineman Nolan Harrison says, "Guys still don’t have a real good handle on nutrition."

Harrison had a 10-year career palying for the Raiders, Steelers, and Redskins. He’s dedicated to helping players stay healthy, and the key to that, he says, is to teach healthy habits when players are still young, so they don’t bulk up the wrong way.

Harrison says, "Just try to eat as much as you want, and we'll work it off during training camp."

Nolan says that’s not good.

Eating too much of the wrong foods to maintain a big body size can cause health problems in the future.

Preliminary data from Mayo Clinic supports that theory.

Mayo Clinic cardiologist Dr. Todd Hurst says, "It looks like NFL players have about three times more artery disease in the carotid arteries than the general population."

Dr. Hurst says that means retired NFL players may be at an increased risk of stroke and heart disease. They may also be at an increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, obstructive sleep apnea, and joint problems.

Dr. Hurst says, "If we identify these risk factors early on, and intervene, the evidence is we can markedly reduce the risk."

Mayo Clinic has teamed up with the NFL to screen players for these issues, but the best way to prevent health problems is to encourage healthy habits when players are young.

The Mayo Clinic conducts screenings for NFL players several times a year. The program is spearheaded by returned player Archie Roberts who wants to help others stay healthy.

For more information, visit MayoClinic.org.


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