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High School Football Players: Is Bigger Really Better?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
The pressure on high school athletes to compete and perform has never been higher than it is now. As college tuition rates continue to rise, many student athletes rely on scholarships to help them get a higher education. But in some sports, kids are paying a price for trying to stay competitive. Is it worth it?

Depending on the position they play, many times bigger is better when it comes to football. Specifically, recent reports show that nearly 50 percent of high school linemen are overweight, and that obesity in football players far outpaces that seen in other male children and adolescents.

Two recent studies in the Journal of the American Medical Association and the Journal of Pediatrics found that weight problems among high school football players, especially linemen, were much greater than those of other young males. The problem tends to be greater among linemen, since they are typically the biggest players in football. And the size of these athletes appears to be increasing as time goes on.

Another study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found 45 percent of young linemen were overweight and 9 percent had severe adult obesity. That compared with 18 percent of male children and adolescents overall who are overweight.

So why isn't bigger necessarily better? Well, in the short term, it's not healthy to be carrying so much extra weight (most of which is not going to be muscle weight), especially for such young kids. But the long term effects of these excess pounds can be even worse. As anyone who's had long term weight problems knows, it puts extra pressure on your bones and joints- which can lead to arthritis, lower back problems, joint damage, knee injuries and more.

If you have teenage athletes in your family, do you see this kind of pressure to stay competitive? How does your family handle it? If you're a former high school athlete, did you experience this kind of pressure yourself?

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My son has had that trouble all his life. He's a thin petite athlete. I have always encouraged him to do his best...that size don't matter. However, in football coaches look at him & underestimate him. He has always had to prove himself. He surprises coaches all the time. He's just as strong and fast. Don't get me wrong he tries to bulk up. He just haven't been able to. So...we handle each coach the same way. My son makes the effort. He lifts weight, drink protein shakes, eat 5 times a day and work hard. It is what it is. Report
Although for boys, the sport that gets most of the attention is football, my son was drawn to running. He lettered in both cross country and track and field, as well as crew. Especially for the first two, he was encouraged to eat healthy and maintain a healthy weight. Unfortunately such sports tend to not get the same attention as football. And the athletes are not viewed as role models in the same way as football players. Report
If it's by BMI, just about every football player I've ever met the "Obese" rating. BMI does not account for the "bodybuilder" body type. While some truly are overweight or obese (read: fat, not muscular), others are built like brick walls. I'm at 262lbs right now and though I do have a little pudge on my stomach, NO ONE will call me fat, overweight or obese. Report
My 16 year old son is 6'5" 230 pound sophomore. He is DL and occasional OL. He is far from overweight and he can't seem to eat enough to satisfy himself (that might be a teenage boy thing). He's been playing football since he was 7 and has always been bigger than the others. Now he's finally going up against the big boys-- 270 pounders; some overweight and some just genetically blessed. He doesn't mind though -- he says the fat ones fall easier! A good program will make sure that the athletes are in the best shape they can be for their position. But there will always be those coaches who think only about winning and using their "big" men to accomplish that. Go Trojans! Report
This is hilarious to me. I was an athlete in college. You should talk about softball players too then--more than half of the team weighed 180-200. Just because the football players look big (on the field or looking at their weight # in gameday mag) doesn't mean they are FAT. My boyfriend is active player in college--he is a NoseGuard. I know the OL & DL--they are aLL HARD ROCK MUSCLE! They have Dietitians on staff to check their Body fat percentage & BMI. I know for a fact I couldn't even do half the things they do in practice...These guys are TONE & ATHLETIC. Not LAZY & SLOPPY. Report
My husband and I are both former athletes and we both gained weight when we quit playing (him after high school, me after college). It took some time to adjust our eating habits to NOT having practice for two hours every day. He played football but was muscular, not overweight. I played tennis so I pretty much had to be in good shape with all the running around you do on the court. Report
I went to a football game in September.
It was the first time of being at a school event in over ten years.
I was shocked and appauled at the high percentage of morbid obesity in these adolecents....both on AND off the field.

It is so very sad. The convience food industry is winning.

What will the next generation bring?
A nation of self inflicted invalids?
Nursing Facilities are already starting to fill with people who can't take care of themselves SOLELY because of obesity.

Sad...really, really sad. Report
I remember back in high school (when I was actually thin, but my sister was overweight) thinking it was unfair. There were quite a number of those on the football team that were overweight, and I mean overweight, not musclebound. When the guys were nearly as wide as they were tall, with no waistline at all, just like they were a huge rectangle that jiggled when it walked, its not all muscle :P Obviously they had some muscle/ability on them or they wouldnt have made the team, it just always struck me as unfair that they were told how wonderful they were when people who were actually in better shape were teased (and teased often by these same football players) for being fat. Report
My 19 yos played football as a Linemen for 4 years. He's 6' and 269# and I am sure on a chart that is obese, but I can tell you that he is MUSCLE and after 4 years of "weight training class" and football work outs, he is NOT obese. I would never have let him play football if he hadn't been that big, because to me it is no game for a little 135# kid, BUT they were on the team. Now, my son just started doing the P90X work out on DVD with Tony Horton, as he wants to lose some pounds since he isn't playing football this year. The biggest problem I had was worrying about him having a HEAT STROKE when they practiced in the summer. In 1964 my husband's cousin in Texas died during a game, as he was the Class President and the Star Quarterback. Report
I played softball and basketball in middle school and high school. We were pushed to be faster and more nimble. Those that weren't fast enough for the coach tended to get yelled at a lot, in front of all of us. I felt really bad for those few girls. They really did try their best but it never seemed to be good enough for the coach. I'm really not bragging, but most of the time the coaches picked me to demonstrate things because I was the faster on the team and more nimble to do it. I hated that! Everyone accused me of being the coaches pet, eventually I quit playing for school and just played for fun with friends and family because of that. Report
i know so many guys that played football in high school and college and when their playing days were over and they finished school and had to enter the real world they didn't have time to work out and stay in shape and they just ended up more overweight than i could imagine. so i think that bigger is not always better because i know so many people who have ended up worse off than they should be, just because they needed to bulk up so much to play a sport. Report
I have a 14 year old daughter who plays soccer. Fortunately, being big isn't necessarily an advantage for a soccer player, and her weight is perfectly normal. I am glad she is playing soccer competitively because I think she needs regular, vigorous, structured exercise for her overall health. When she has a quarter without PE, you can really tell. Report
My oldest is very competitive in football but is a running back (half back or full back can't remember which and also depends on the game!) and on the defensive side plays any position on any given day depending on the size of the other team. He is not over weight in anyway shape or form but rather very built. He isn't really the big kid on the team size wise but his attitude makes him the big kid - that might not make any sense but he has been the leader for so long that everyone looks to him and he has just stepped into that role. He lifts weights with his trainer who makes sure that he doesn't over do it but yet gets in a good work out! I am so greatful that his team has great coaches who really look out for the boys! Really, in football size can be a hinderance as well because if your size just comes from being overweigth that really slows you down and makes it so much harder to move. I guess I am surprised to hear this because I would think that more coaches would want the muscle in shape size more than the fat weight. Gosh, I am a very lucky parent I guess! Report
I played both high school and college football and another thing they never warn you about is what do you do with all the muscle weight you build up staying in shape and in size to play. I was 6'6" 290 pounds when I stopped playing and my body fat was 10%. For the first couple of years I was fine since my body didn't slow down but then I hit 300, then 310, 320, 330, 340, 350 and finally 360in 2006 and the first part of 2007. My muscle had turned to fat and my eating habits never went down. And about the BMI, I weigh 218 now and that is over weight according to the BMI and my body fat is back to 10% maybe even a bit lower. So at 290 my BMI was overweight even though my body fat was 10% and at 218 I am still overweight according to the BMI!!! That is my take on all of this. At least the football players active. Report
Maybe the reason football has more overweight young men is because that is one sport in which they can participate if they are big guys ...
And I believe playing in any sport is a GREAT things for a young person. The life lessons from learning to work as a team to developing camaraderie to adding discipline and structure are all of enormous value!
My son played football (as a linebacker) all the way through to college and the attention to his diet and strength training and general fitness was always very thorough and professional. Big is good, but they have to be fast and strong to be competitive. Report
Umm, is that overweight/obese by body fat or BMI? curious. Report
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