Heavy Hitters In Baseball

Major league baseball (MLB) players have expanded into a new arena – their body mass index (BMI) is increasing.

Recent 2016 research looked at data spanning back 145 years on 17,918 male professional baseball players. What was observed was their BMI at the time of their professional debut.  Findings showed that MLB players held steady weights for over 100 years with the majority of them hovering between what is considered a “normal” BMI – 18.5 to 24.9.

But for the past 25 years, beginning in 1991, MLB players professional debut BMI’s began to rise.  During that time almost 80 percent of the player’s BMI pushed up into the overweight to obese BMI category of 25 or higher.

Normally professional athletes are considered role models of good health and athleticism.  But this increase in BMI at the time of the MLB players debut is concerning since there is the potential for detrimental long-term health consequences.  It is not completely understood why there has been an increase in BMI but one theory is that it does coincide with steroid use during that time frame which can cause weight gain.   

It was noted in the study that since 1991, many of the players are taller and have weighed more to begin with at the time of their professional debut.  Researchers also stated that the increase in BMI could partially be due to advances in science and nutrition.  Athletes know much more on how to train extensively while fueling themselves better to build muscle mass along with endurance.

The body mass index can be misinterpreted and misleading.  If the athletes are quite muscular, more so than they were in the past, naturally their BMI’s will be higher since muscle weighs more than fat bumping them up into the more health risky overweight to obese category. 

The problem for many professional athletes is what can happen to their bodies after they have retired from their sport.  Once the daily work outs stop but their eating habits remain the same, excess pounds can quickly accumulate. The days of being able to eat as much and whatever they wanted since the calories were burned through hours of exercise, come to an abrupt end. 

Many ex-athletes also feel they deserve a break from the rigors of training.  They reduce the amount of time and energy spent on keeping themselves in excellent physical conditioning and once again, this contributes to an accumulation of weight.

The higher BMI’s may mean they will face at some point, a greater chance of developing a chronic disease such a type 2 diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, stroke or high blood pressure.  The solution for these athletes is to continue to monitor their health during their professional career but also help them to adjust physically when they retire to avoid major health issues from gaining too much weight.