August 26, 2005
With the sudden death of one of the NFL's up and coming linemen, many are wondering if athletes are putting themselves at risk. Even high school players are coping with the pressure to tip the scale.
It's one of the few sports where the bigger you are, the better.
Football is an American sport that has entertained millions of fans for years nationwide. After a 23-year-old lineman, Thomas Herrion, for the San Francisco 49ers recently collapsed, later dying just after a pre-season game, several doctors are questioning, is bigger really better?
Mathew Lopez is a six-foot, 210-pound lineman for Monticello's Varsity Football Team and says there is pressure to put on the pounds, especially when your opponent is larger than you are.
"You do want to get bigger," he explained. "I eat as hard as I train myself so I eat as much as I can. [I] eat the right stuff, too, not junkfood."
But without proper exercise to go along with all of that eating, Mathew as well as his teammates could find themselves in a heart-stopping situation.
"They're much more prone to having injuries," said Sara Miles, Head Athletic Trainer for Monticello. "Those are the kids that we see over and over in the training room, because they don't come in in good condition to begin with."
Monticello's varsity head football coach, Brud Bicknell, says all of his players are given yearly physicals to ensure they are fit to play football. He also said that if any of his players is found abusing their health, their time on the field will be cut short.
"We certainly talk to our kids about not taking any enhancers, said Bicknell. "Certainly staying away from steroids, anything that might be out there."
In Albemarle County there haven't been any recent weight-related deaths of athletes, but it's still an issue athletes as well as parents should be aware: that bigger isn't always better.
Most athletes' weight is determined by their body mass index (BMI) used to calculate body fat or to see if a person is considered obese. Many experts say that the system is outdated because it can not distinguish between fat and muscle, putting most athletes in the morbidly obese category.
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