Earlier this month, 50-year-old Ron Wolfley, a NFL fullback who finished his career with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1991, told more than 435 attendees at a Pro Player Health Alliance patient education event in Phoenix about his struggles with sleep apnea.
Derek Kennard, a 6-ft, 3-inch, 340-pound former center, also impressed with his presentation about the OSA-related death of his brother. Derek’s tale brings home the importance of what we are all trying to do in this industry.
Fifty-year-old Mark Walzcak—a 6-ft, 6-inch, 250-pound tight end who finished his career with the San Diego Chargers—made a huge impact with his description of his diagnosis, and ultimate treatment, with a Herbst appliance.
I have been to three Proplayer events so far, and they never disappoint. In addition to the celebrity athletes, Dr Roger Briggs and Dr Alan Bernstein educated attendees, many of whom were there simply for the fellowship. They wanted to be around their football heros, and share their common experiences with OSA diagnosis and treatment.
Multiple health problems are a fact of life among former NFL players. And while concussions have been in the spotlight in recent years, sleep apnea is another danger area that is benefitting from celebrity attention. Wofley, Walzcak, and Kenard brought these stories to life in an engaging way.
There was a balance of speakers who use CPAP, oral appliances, and even participate in combination therapy. More than one had diagnoses, but were ignoring their condition. By the time you read this, there will be way fewer of them.
I was struck by the number of patients in the room with a current diagnosis. I initially thought we were going to see patients with symptoms who were exploring alternative therapies. I met just as many contented CPAP wearers as I did patients who were still working on finding a therapy they could comply with.
I had a great chat with Ruchir Patel, MD, a Scottsdale sleep physician, and Roy Meyers, from Global Sleep Diagnostics, a phoenix-based sleep lab. These discussions centered around tactics for improving fit and function of therapeutic devices.
With the Super Bowl less than two weeks away, much attention will be lavished on NFL stars in the coming days. But it’s worth noting that these elite athletes face the same OSA concerns as the general public. And while public knowledge is increasing, there is room for more education.
When I attend patient-focused events, AWAKE meetings, or PPHA events, I hear these patient stories. They inspire me and help to refocus my efforts on the importance of sleep diagnosis and therapy. This meeting was no exception.
As one example, I was approached by a young woman, who told me she was 20 years old. She came to the meeting because her father had a sleep problem, but was resisting a visit to his physician to discuss it. It seems that when her father falls asleep, he begins to have seizures that are so intense that family members stay awake to monitor him.
I asked why he did not go to the doctor, and the answer was he drives a commercial vehicle for a living, and he is the primary breadwinner for the family. A diagnosis of sleep issues is perceived to be an unacceptable outcome. What a stark reminder of how much work we all have to do in this industry.
Naturally, I introduced this courageous young person to one of the doctors at the meeting for advice and guidance. I hope we were able to help.
PPHA by the Numbers
Total pro players: 30
Patients booking appointments (pre and post): 80
All 5 local and one national media network carried the story http://ksaz.m0bl.net/r/1d22i3Proplayer on Facebook was 244,822 visits, check it out if you can.
The next pro player event will be hosted by
Dr Victor WoodLief
Thursday, February 7th in San Jose, CA
For more info: http://bit.ly/X28uSA
SOURCE: Randy Clare, Managing Editor of SleepScholar, Yorba Linda, CA
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