Prevalence of Cardiovascular Disease and Risk Factors Among Former National Football League Players

Alexis K. Okoh, Michael K.D. Amponsah, Shannon Cheffet-Walsh, Mehul Patel, David Carfagno, Druenell Linton, Robert Dimeff, David Braunreiter, Phillips Harrington, Fred H. Brennan, Clifford Kavinsky, Marlon Everett, Brandon Park, Marissa Gunnarsson, Sean Snowden, Lidia Mootz, Tenley Koepnick, Jaime Wheeler, Sarah E. Clarke, Heather PrinceAnna Sannino, Paul Grayburn, E. Lee Rice

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death worldwide, but prevalence estimates in former professional athletes are limited. Objectives: HUDDLE (Heart Health: Understanding and Diagnosing Disease by Leveraging Echocardiograms) aimed to raise awareness and estimate the prevalence of CVD and associated risk factors among members of the National Football League (NFL) Alumni Association and their families through education and screening events. Methods: HUDDLE was a multicity, cross-sectional study of NFL alumni and family members aged 50 years and older. Subjects reported their health history and participated in CVD education and screening (blood pressure, electrocardiogram, and transthoracic echocardiogram [TTE] assessments). Phone follow-up by investigators occurred 30 days postscreening to review results and recommendations. This analysis focuses on former NFL athletes. Results: Of 498 participants screened, 57.2% (N = 285) were former NFL players, the majority of whom were African American (67.6%). The prevalence of hypertension among NFL alumni was estimated to be 89.8%, though only 37.5% reported a history of hypertension. Of 285 evaluable participants, 61.8% had structural cardiac abnormalities by TTE. Multivariable analysis showed that hypertension was a significant predictor of clinically relevant structural abnormalities on TTE. Conclusions: HUDDLE identified a large discrepancy between participant self-awareness and actual prevalence of CVD and risk factors, highlighting a significant opportunity for population health interventions. Structural cardiac abnormalities were observed in most participants and were independently predicted by hypertension, affirming the role of TTE for CVD screening in this population aged older than 50 years.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1827-1837
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of the American College of Cardiology
Issue number19
StatePublished - May 14 2024


  • cardiovascular risk factors
  • cardiovascular screening
  • former professional athletes
  • heart failure
  • transthoracic echocardiography
  • underrepresented populations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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