Study on student-athletes: Sports participation may not protect against obesity, high blood pressure

Researchers at Thomas Jefferson University found similar rates of obesity and high blood pressure in student-athletes as would be expected in the general adolescent population. This may suggest participation in athletics does not protect against these conditions, according to a press release.

The data, published in The Journal of Pediatrics, stems from the Athlete Health Organization. The nonprofit organization provides free pre-participation evaluations to student-athletes in Philadelphia each year before the start of the season. Volunteer physicians gather biometric information and provide physical exams. During the course of 4 years, the organization has provided physicals to more than 2,700 athletes, the release noted.

According to the findings, 20% of participants were overweight; 24% were obese; and 14.8% had higher than normal blood pressure. In addition, BMI strongly correlated with high blood pressure readings.

“Although the general presumption is that athletics and activity should help with weight and blood pressure control, our study suggests that student-athletes in Philadelphia are suffering from these conditions at the same alarming rate as their peers who do not sign up for school sports,” Jill Kropa, MD, a sports medicine fellow at Thomas Jefferson University and author of the study, said in the release.

Researchers hope this data will raise awareness of health issues that affect the student-athlete population, according to the release.


Kropa, J. J Pediatr. 2016;doi:10.1016/j.jpeds.2016.07.006.

Disclosure: Kropa reports no relevant financial disclosures.

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