Study: Majority of NFL Alumni Suffer From Heart Disease

Without knowing it.

Crowds fill an area outside of the draft stage during the second round of the NFL football draft, Friday, April 26, 2024, in Detroit.
Crowds fill an area outside of the draft stage during the second round of the NFL football draft, Friday, April 26, 2024, in Detroit.
AP Photo/Carlos Osorio

Edwards Lifesciences last month announced the release of data from the HUDDLE study that examined the prevalence of heart disease and associated risk factors among members of the National Football League (NFL) Alumni Association and their families.

The findings of the study, which identified a significant discrepancy between participant self-awareness and actual prevalence of heart disease and associated risk factors, were presented during a clinical trials session at the American College of Cardiology and published simultaneously in The Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Results of the HUDDLE study indicated that the prevalence of hypertension in the 498 screened participants was 83.8%, though only about half (46.5%) self-reported a history of hypertension. Of all participants screened and found to have an elevated systolic blood pressure, a staggering 73.8% were also found to have structural heart changes present on transthoracic echo sonography (TTE).

'These alarming results are a call to action,โ€ said Michael Amponsah, MD, ChB, FACC, Interventional Cardiologist, Banner Boswell Medical Center, Peoria, Ariz. โ€œThe disparities highlighted in the cohort involved in the HUDDLE study point to a significant opportunity to examine a greater role for routine age-based screening, and especially for the expanded use of echocardiogram to better identify undetected or undiagnosed heart disease and heart failure."

Initiated by Edwards in 2021, the HUDDLE studyโ€™s objective was to examine the unrecognized prevalence of heart disease and associated risk factors, particularly among groups historically known to experience disparities in access to care. For instance, with more than a million patients treated globally with TAVR, the treatment rate of African Americans in the U.S. has remained constant over the past decade at around 4%, despite comprising approximately 14% of the US population.

Conducted across eight U.S. cities in cooperation with NFL Alumni Health, a subsidiary of the NFL Alumni Association, HUDDLE was a cross sectional study of NFL alumni and their family members aged 50 years and above. The participants were mostly male (66.5%) and African American or Black (63%). Study participants self-reported their medical histories and participated in heart health education and screenings that included blood pressure, electrocardiogram (EKG) and echocardiogram.

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