NEW YORK (FOX 5 NY) - Contact sports carry a greater risk for all types of injuries. And a young athlete might be more susceptible than a middle-aged man to sleep-disordered breathing, which can cause snoring and even sleep apnea, according to a recent study of college rugby players published in ERJ Open Research.
Sleep apnea can increase the likelihood of developing high blood pressure, diabetes, strokes, and heart attack, according to Dr. Keri Peterson with Lenox Hill Hospital. And the condition is not usually associated with young athletes.
"Typically sleep apnea is more often associated with someone who has a higher body mass index or someone who has a short or thick neck," Peterson said. "And typically over the age of 40."
Peterson also said while the study did select athletes that had particular risk factors, why these athletes are prone to sleep apnea at such a young age is not known.
"So one thing to consider in these athletes, in particular, the rugby players or the football players, is they tend to have more muscular necks, which may put pressure on the airway," Peterson said.
Steven Halton is a former collegiate rugby player who played all four years at Canisius College. He believes the sport is for all body types and was surprised by the results of the study.
"I kind of thought rugby was safer sport versus football because I think there's better tackling techniques," Halton said. "But anything that you do to your body is going to probably have negative effects on you in the long run."