Athletes may be trading good health for shot at college football

October 14, 2013 

Despite scandal, the risk of injury and the relatively small chance of benefit, more high school football players are reaching for a a goal: They want to top 300 pounds on the training scale, which they believe will not just make them more powerful players but might lead to a free education and a college football career. Who knows? Maybe they’ll even make the pros.

But as Tim Stevens, The News & Observer’s veteran writer covering high school sports, showed in a Sunday story, some of these young men, these “supersized” athletes, may well be headed down a troublesome path. They may be able to tolerate the weight they carry when they’re working out regularly and while they are young, but youth flees. And many of these athletes will wind up middle aged and obese and could well develop heart disease, diabetes, joint trouble and a host of other problems associated with obesity.

The trend is greater than one might think. During the 2012 season, at least 127 high school offensive linemen (the position where extra weight is most advantageous) were over 300 pounds. Unless a person is basketball tall, a 300-pounder typically has a much higher Body Mass Index than doctors want. Obviously, there are temptations, given the intense competition for coveted college scholarships, to use body-building drugs. But many players, as Stevens reported, just gain weight by eating like crazy.

This problem is at a crisis stage. Coaches have to take a role to dissuade players from gaining gross amounts of weight. Perhaps rules need to be changed, particularly at the high school level, to take away the advantage of size in line play. And maybe, in the interest of health, high school teams just shouldn’t allow grossly obese kids to play. Their lifetime health is more important.

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