Commenced in January 2007
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Incidence of Chronic Disease and Lipid Profile in Veteran Rugby Athletes

Authors: Mike Climstein, Joe Walsh, John Best, Ian Timothy Heazlewood, Stephen Burke, Jyrki Kettunen, Kent Adams, Mark DeBeliso


Recently, the health of retired National Football League players, particularly lineman has been investigated. A number of studies have reported increased cardiometabolic risk, premature cardiovascular disease and incidence of type 2 diabetes. Rugby union players have somatotypes very similar to National Football League players which suggests that rugby players may have similar health risks. The International Golden Oldies World Rugby Festival (GORF) provided a unique opportunity to investigate the demographics of veteran rugby players. METHODOLOGIES: A cross-sectional, observational study was completed using an online web-based questionnaire that consisted of medical history and physiological measures. Data analysis was completed using a one sample t-test (<50yrs versus >50yrs) and Chi-square test. RESULTS: A total of 216 veteran rugby competitors (response rate = 6.8%) representing 10 countries, aged 35-72 yrs (mean 51.2, S.D. ±8.0), participated in the online survey. As a group, the incidence of current smokers was low at 8.8% (avg 72.4 cigs/wk) whilst the percentage consuming alcohol was high (93.1% (avg 11.2 drinks/wk). Competitors reported the following top six chronic diseases/disorders; hypertension (18.6%), arthritis (OA/RA, 11.5%), asthma (9.3%), hyperlipidemia (8.2%), diabetes (all types, 7.5%) and gout (6%), there were significant differences between groups with regard to cancer (all types) and migraines. When compared to the Australian general population (Australian Bureau of Statistics data, n=18,000), GORF competitors had a significantly lower incidence of anxiety (p<0.01), arthritis (p<0.06), depression (p<.01) however, a significantly higher incidence of diabetes (p<0.03) and hypertension (p<0.01). The GORF competitors also reported taking the following prescribed medications; antihypertensive (13%), hypolipidemics (8%), non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (6%), and anticoagulants (4%). Significant differences between groups were observed in antihypertensives, anticoagulants and hypolipidemics. There were significant (p<0.05) differences between groups (<50yrs versus >50yrs) with regard to height (180 vs 177cm), weight (97.6 vs 93.1Kg-s), BMI (30 vs 29.7kg/m2) and waist circumference (85.7 vs 93.1cm) however, there were no differences in subsequent parameters of systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, total cholesterol, HDL-C, LDL-C, triglycerides-C or fasting plasma glucose. CONCLUSIONS: This represents the first collection of demographics on this cohort. GORF participants demonstrated increased cardiometabolic risk with regard to the incidence of hypercholesterolemia, hypertension and type 2 diabetes. Preventative strategies should be developed to reduce this risk with education of these risks for future participants.

Keywords: Masters athlete, rugby union, risk factors, chronic disease

Digital Object Identifier (DOI):

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