NFL’s big men mostly healthier than their peers

CHICAGO -- Supersized pro football players are prone to high blood pressure but fare better on some other health measures than more average-sized men, new NFL-sponsored research shows.

The results suggest that intense physical conditioning can help reduce, but not wipe out, the ill effects that excess weight has on heart disease-related risks. Compared with other men their age, the NFL players were more than twice as likely to have high blood pressure -- 14 vs. 6 percent for non-players.

Among the biggest players -- linemen with a body mass index in the obese range -- about 90 percent had either high blood pressure or pre-hypertension, which is less dangerous but still risky. The biggest players also had worse levels of "good" cholesterol and blood fats called triglycerides, but fewer signs of pre-diabetes than non-players.

The NFL and study authors downplayed the negative findings from a pool of 504 players of all sizes. Except for high blood pressure, the authors said, players on average faced no greater heart disease risks than men their age in the general population.

The study group included almost 200 of the largest players -- offensive and defensive linemen -- but also a sizable portion of leaner players including nearly 100 quarterbacks, kickers and wide receivers.

Heart disease experts not involved in the study said grouping lean quarterbacks with big beefy linemen doesn't make sense.

"It's mixing apples and oranges," said Cleveland Clinic heart specialist Dr. Steven Nissen. He said the results show "it's unhealthy to have excess body fat whether you're an athlete or not."

Dr. Daniel Jones, a former American Heart Association president, said more favorable results on some measures "shouldn't be reassuring" because high blood pressure is so closely related to future heart problems.

Justin Bannan, a 6-foot-3, 310-pound defensive tackle for the Baltimore Ravens was among the subjects. By standard criteria, he'd be considered obese with a BMI over 38. Other than that, Bannan said his results were "pretty normal" and he feels "pretty fit for the size I am. The problem is when you're done playing, as a lineman, you're going to have to make some changes" to avoid health risks, he said.

NFL WILL APPEAL -- The NFL filed notice Tuesday that it plans to appeal a federal judge's ruling in the case of two Minnesota Vikings players facing suspensions over positive drug tests. U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson last week threw out most of the claims by Vikings defensive tackles Kevin Williams and Pat Williams. Tuesday, the NFL asked the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals to review whether Magnuson misapplied federal law when he didn't dismiss those two claims outright.

BROWN SIGN CB -- Cleveland signed free agent cornerback Rod Hood, a starter for Arizona in last season's Super Bowl. Hood spent the past two seasons with the Cardinals, starting 14 games last season and getting 40 tackles and one interception. He also played on special teams and blocked a field goal and returned it 68 yards for a touchdown. He had five interceptions in 2007.

PEYTON ANXIOUS -- All Peyton Manning wants from the Indianapolis Colts is a game plan. It may take the team a little longer to satisfy the three-time MVP. The front office is trying determine how retired assistants Tom Moore and Howard Mudd will fit into this season's coaching plans. Manning, who usually toes the company line, would like a better understanding of what to expect. "Somebody says one thing, then somebody else says another thing," Manning said after a minicamp workout. "I'm not sure everybody's on the same page in this building."

Moore and Mudd retired two weeks ago to avoid losing money under the NFL's revised pension plan. team owner Jim Irsay told The Indianapolis Star both would return as consultants. But NFL Coaches Association executive director Larry Kennan said the two would have to wait six months before returning. Moore is the only coordinator Manning has played for in 11 seasons; Mudd is the Colts' longtime offensive line coach.

BRADY WORKS OUT -- Tom Brady practiced with the New England Patriots for the first time Tuesday since suffering a season-ending knee injury in last year's opening game.