A study by two health and human performance researchers from Iowa State University found that 45 percent of some 251 Iowa high school football linemen were overweight during the 2005 season. The study rated the football players on the body mass index that is determined by a person’s weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared. ISU graduate student Kelly Laurson is one of the co-authors of the study being published in the January 24th issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Laurson says the study brings attention to the issue of pediatric obesity and being overweight. Laurson says there was a previous study that showed obesity in NFL linemen, and they thought it might be a problem in high school too. Laurson says they included linemen from all six classes. Laurson says what really stood out was the nine-percent of the linemen who had severe obesity. He says there are no adolescent standards for severe obesity, so they used adult standards. Laurson says the number of obese lineman were compared to a group of non-lineman similar in age, and their obesity rate was just over 18-percent.
Laurson says the linemen are likely part of an overall obesity problem — but says there’s also a football factor. Laurson says there is a "pediatric obesity epidemic" in the U.S. and this mirrors that, but he says these players see college and NFL players and have aspirations of playing in college and the NFL and want to get bigger. Laurson conducted the study with ISU associate professor Joey Eisenmann.
He says the next step is to go in and take more measures of body-fat percentage and see if there are "adverse risks from that body fat percentage, even though those these players are athletes."
Allen Beste of the Iowa High School Athletic Association says the issue has been something they’ve looked at over the last few years. Beste says they deal with wrestling so much on the other end of the spectrum and dealing with losing weight, so they have also dealt with how athletes can gain weight properly so athletes gain weight properly, and add as much muscle as possible. Beste says the issue of weight gain and nutrition have also been covered with the focus on steroids.
Beste says the IHSAA has put out a lot of information out about steroids and nutritional supplements as he says they try to be all inclusive for athletes who’re tiring to gain and lose weight. Beste says the association has tried to be proactive on the obesity issue, recognizing it is a national problem for kids.
Beste says they’ve contacted a national high school sports advisory committee twice over the last couple of years to talk about guidelines and educational materials for athletes. Beste says overweight football players though have not been a big concern. Beste says, "We have not had any major calls from coaches, administrators, parents regarding that issue." The ISU study included 3,683 linemen, and included at least two teams from each of Iowa’s 47 districts or conferences.