In football, the offensive guard’s job is to act like a shield to protect the quarterback against the charging linebackers on the defensive line. That’s like trying to stop a charge of stampeding bulls, which is why the guard has to not only be strong, but also big…really big. That is why Super Bowl champion Aaron Taylor made the perfect guard. But his weight and size may have also been what was causing him to suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. A recent Mayo study showed that 60% of retired linemen suffer from the disorder, which means that a large percentage of other retired players most likely suffer from the same condition.
Aaron Taylor first started playing college football for the University of Notre Dame and was a two-time All-American – he also played for the Green Bay Packers; taking the team to a championship in 1997. But it was when he started his job as a guard for the San Diego Chargers when his health conditions really caught up with him. “I was waking up more tired than I thought I should have been. I was waking up feeling like I was hungover. I had a headache. My throat hurt. I had trouble concentrating. I was irritable…” Taylor went on, listing symptoms that could very easily be confused with veisalgia (the medical term for being hung over).
60% of retired National Football League linemen reportedly suffer from sleep apnea, which means that a large percentage of other retired players most likely suffer from the same condition.
– Mayo Clinic Study
Resultant of these symptoms, Taylor decided to take a sleep study and learned something he never thought possible. “Throughout the night 20 times per hour for 20 seconds per time I wasn’t breathing!” quipped Taylor. “That, night after night after night, is what led to all the problems I had.” Taylor continued. The hundreds of cessations, or pauses in breathing, per night that Taylor experienced was literally wreaking havoc on his wellbeing. While there is a genetic history of sleep apnea in his family, Taylor didn’t know that he would be fighting his own battle. Finally, though, he did do something about his condition. After being diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, he started to get back on a regular physical fitness routine. He started eating more healthily and making better dietary choices. And he started undergoing CPAP treatment, which really spun his life around in the right direction.
It took a while for Taylor to get used to CPAP treatment, but he said it was more than worth it. Once he did get used to CPAP, he realized, “I can now breathe continuously uninterrupted throughout the entire night.” He started waking up feeling much more rested and refreshed. And Taylor desperately needs that rest – not only for his health, but also for his new job as a sports analyst, a job that requires constant traveling and a keen sense of observation and mental acuity. According to Taylor, “There’s a lot required not only physically for me to be able to my job, but from a mental capacity. If I’m undernourished, or under rested from a sleep standpoint I can’t do my job.” With CPAP and some major lifestyle adjustments, Taylor is now thriving.
At the end of the day, thanks to CPAP, offensive guard and Super Bowl champion Aaron Taylor has been able to take his life back and tackle his obstructive sleep apnea. These drastic results have allowed him to shine in his occupation and family life. Not only did Taylor take his own life back, but he said that it has resulted in much more than that, “The result has been my kids get their daddy back. My employers get a good employee back. My wife gets a good husband back.”
What does this mean for all the people out there that think they may be suffering from obstructive sleep apnea? It means that you should get diagnosed today, because you too can tackle sleep apnea and get your life back.
Mayo Clinic. “Retired National Football League Linemen Have High Incidence Of Sleep Apnea.” ScienceDaily. 27 March 2009.
Taylor, Aaron. “Former NFLer: Don’t go through life exhausted.” CNN Health. 4 April 2014.