31 January 2011

The size of professional football players

Several nights ago I watched the HBO movie "Lombardi" (a surprisingly good documentary, even if you don't care for football as a sport), and couldn't help but notice the different body habitus of players from the 1960s.  This week the New York Times has a column addressing the same topic:
When B. J. Raji nimbly intercepted a pass and shimmied in the end zone last Sunday, helping to put Green Bay into the Super Bowl, the feat was remarkable given that Raji is a nose tackle and, at 337 pounds, is thought to be the largest player to score a postseason touchdown in N.F.L. history...

In 1970, only one N.F.L. player weighed as much as 300 pounds, according to a survey conducted by The Associated Press. That number has expanded like players’ waistlines from three 300-pounders in 1980 to 94 in 1990, 301 in 2000, 394 in 2009 and 532 as training camps began in 2010...

On the other hand, the enormousness of many players, and the recent deaths of one active lineman and several relatively young retired linemen, have raised questions — and brought conflicting answers — about potential health risks associated with size...

“You can see by looking at the defensive linemen that they carry 30, 40, 50 pounds of fat,” said Jerry Kramer, the All-Pro guard who led the Packers’ famed sweep in the 1960s while playing at about 250 pounds. “Fat doesn’t make you strong and quick. It makes you heavy. Muscle makes you strong. We’ve gotten enamored with the 300-pounder, but give me an offensive guard who’s in great shape at 270 or 275 and understands leverage and positioning, and I’ll bet he’ll whip the fat guy every time.”
More at the link for those interested (and kudos to the author of the piece for writing "enormousness" rather than "enormity.").  I'll bet when the Packers and Steelers arrived in Dallas today that they brought several dozen CPAP machines with them.

1 comment:

  1. I wonder how much of this is due to the players making so much money that their full time job is football. It allows for more training and concentration on keeping fit. I think that's why you see so many more huge football players these days (aside from the guys that are outright fat). You saw the same thing when rugby union went professional in the 1990s. Before that, all the players, even at the international level all had full time jobs. Now that these guys have rugby as their full time job, the players got bigger and the game got faster.

    Check out rugby union in 1994:

    Then check out rugby union in 2010


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