Heart screenings highlight medical difficulties facing NFL players

AUSTIN (KXAN) — We’ve been hearing a lot about the health issues for former NFL athletes after their careers, but there’s more than just the effects of concussions to deal with.

Former football players deal with the beating their bodies took, the weight gain or loss, they may be predisposed to heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and much more.

On Saturday some 40 former players got free health screenings at the Seton Heart Institute thanks to Seton and the non-profit Living Heart Foundation, which was founded by former NFL quarterback turned heart surgeon Dr. Archie Roberts. One of the former players examined today was former UT All American offensive lineman Dan Neil, who went on to win two super bowls with Denver.

“We all know the price you pay to play the game. Everyone here would probably tell you they’d do it again, it’s a great game, we all love doing it. So right now, the position we’re in, we’re trying to reduce the affects of what the game did by taking care of ourselves,” said Dan.

The men we remember as invincible gladiators face many health challenges, in part because of the game they loved and the toll time takes on us all.

“As long as we played, as many games as we played, there are a lot of after effects so you need to keep up with where your body is,” said former UT All American lineman Don Tolbert. Don’s well aware of the ongoing concussion controversy but says there’s more care now than in his days.

“You know the old concussion deal was how many fingers am I holding up, that’s close enough get back in the game.”

Don helped the Dallas Cowboys win their first Super Bowl, and has lots of great memories from his career. But if he had to choose?

“I didn’t have one favorite time except we beat Oklahoma every year, we beat the Aggies every year.”

To give you some perspective on the importance of health screenings for athletes, A study by the CDC found that heart disease varied by position.

Defensive linemen had a 42% higher risk of death from the disease compared to men in the general population.

Players who had a Body mass index of 30 or more during their playing years had twice the risk of death from heart disease.

The study also shows that African American players had a 69 percent greater chance of dying from heart disease than Caucasian players.

Tomorrow high school athletes can get a free screening at the Seton Heart Institute between 1 and 4 p.m.

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