Professional Athletes with OSA

We all remember Shaquille O’Neal. He is a retired basketball player and is known as one of the heaviest players to play in the NBA. His strength made him a dominant force on the basketball court and this made him a hero to many people.

What you may not know about Shaq, is that off the court, he has to deal with obstructive sleep apnea, and wears a CPAP machine to bed each night to control his breathing while he sleeps.


 So if you think you are the only one that has to deal with sleep apnea, you are definitely not alone. According to Christopher Winter, medical director of the Martha Jefferson Hospital Sleep Medicine Center in Charlottesville, Virginia, there are many athletes who suffer from sleep apnea, and have to take precautions in their sport.

Why you ask? Well, many athletes fit the list of contributions to the causes of sleep apnea, such as weight, having a thick neck, or having pre-existing allergies or other medical conditions. In other words, professional athletes are just as much at risk for sleep apnea as anyone else is.  

Winter says that the condition can take a toll on their athletic performance, as well as their cardiovascular system, meaning they have to be extra careful and take their training very seriously. It can also throw an athlete off their regular sleep schedule, which is not good for training and overall performance.

NFL Player Reggie White, NBA star Anthony Bennett and another NFL Player, Tony Dorset, are just a few well-known athletes who have to deal with sleep apnea in addition to their training. White, sadly, did not seek treatment in time and died in 2006, reportedly from causes related to sleep apnea. This is why seeking proper treatment for the condition is very important.

For O’Neal, however, he has said that he feels more energetic and that his quality of life has improved tremendously. It was his girlfriend who first started to believe that something was wrong and he sought treatment right away.

So if Shaq can wear the mask, so can you.

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