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Sleepiness is a Career Killer for Pro Athletes

Testing potential pro athletes for excessive daytime sleepiness could help NFL and MLB teams make better draft picks.

If you’ve got game in college, you just might make it in the major leagues. Unfortunately, if you’re tired all the time, your career as a pro athlete won’t last that long.

Two new studies of excessive daytime sleepiness, presented by W. Christopher Winter, MD, at a conference of sleep researchers in Boston, looked at how a lack of sleep impacts the athletic careers of NFL and MLB players.

In the first study, Winter and his colleagues surveyed 55 randomly selected college football players who were later drafted by the NFL. Players who tested as having greater daytime sleepiness were less likely to stay with the team that drafted them—38 percent, compared to 56 percent for the less tired players.

This trend was similar for baseball players. Out of 40 randomly selected MLB players, between 57 and 86 percent of players who suffered from excessive tiredness during the day had left the league at the end of three seasons—being bumped to the minor leagues, being unsigned, or retiring. This was higher than the league’s average for departures.

Other studies have shown the importance of sleep for completing physical and mental tasks, which may indicate why the athletic careers of overly tired players tend to suffer.

The researchers point out that, in addition to being a useful tool for making better draft picks, keeping an eye on sleepiness in players could improve the overall team.

Excessive tiredness during the day can indicate a potential sleep disorder, like obstructive sleep apnea. This can have a significant impact on the health of the players, not to mention their game.

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