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AHA: Overweight Linked to Mortality in Baseball Players

Professionals have steadily become heavier, and the heaviest players have a doubled risk of death

THURSDAY, March 4 (HealthDay News) -- Among professional major league baseball players, body mass index (BMI) has steadily increased over the past century, and those who were overweight as rookies -- especially those who went on to become notable home run hitters -- have a higher risk of mortality, according to research presented this week at the American Heart Association's joint conference of the Council on Epidemiology and Prevention and the Council on Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism, held from March 2 to 5 in San Francisco.

Eric L. Ding, Ph.D., of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, and a colleague conducted a longitudinal cohort study of 15,361 professional baseball players who participated in any of the six official major leagues from 1876 to 2007, including 7,417 who died.

The researchers found that the adjusted prevalence of overweight increased from 32 percent in 1876 to 1880 to 46.5 percent in 1940 to 1950 and 55.5 percent in 2000 to 2006. Compared to players with a BMI of 18.5 to less than 22, they observed that those with a BMI of 25 to less than 27.5 had an elevated risk of all-cause mortality (relative risk, 1.13), which steadily increased for those with a BMI of 27.5 to less than 30 or 30 or greater (relative risks, 1.41 and 1.94, respectively). They also found that notable home run hitters were significantly more likely to be overweight, and that overweight home run hitters had a 19 percent increased mortality risk for every 10 home runs hit per year.

"The health implications of athletes with higher BMI should be more carefully considered," the authors conclude.

Abstract No. P161
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