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Are Offensive Lineman Too Fat To Play Football This Year? One USA Today Columnist Wonders

When I logged onto Twitter this morning, I was expecting to be bombarded with takes left and right thanks to what's happening in Minnesota. What I wasn't expecting was this take. 

Are offensive linemen too obese? MY COLUMN. 

SOURCE-But that assumption, according to some infectious disease experts, might ignore a hidden danger lurking in every locker room: Does the sheer size of offensive or linemen put them into a higher-risk category for COVID-19 complications? 

“Yes, I’m concerned about players with high BMI (Body Mass Index) as compared to players who do not have high BMI,” said Gretchen Snoeyenbos Newman, an infectious disease fellow at the University of Washington. “I don’t know what that means in a lived clinical way for these athletes, and I don’t think anybody knows yet. That’s the scary part.”

If you follow college football on Twitter, you know Dan Wolken. He's hated by almost every single fanbase, especially Tennessee. I'm sure the clicks on his columns are through the roof. Hate sells. 

This article was a bit surprising to read, but I guess it's a fair question to ask. After all, the guy is a journalist. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control, a BMI of 40 qualifies someone as severely obese and puts them “at higher risk for complications from COVID-19.” For an adult male, that translates to someone who is 6-3, 320 pounds. In last year’s national championship game, the average size of the starting offensive linemen was 6-4, 325 pounds for Clemson and 6-4, 321 pounds for LSU.

I've always understood BMI as a great statistic for the general population. The 99% of Americans. Guess what most football players aren't? The general population. BMI fails to acknowledge body fat percentage. Most offensive linemen aren't 10% body fat, but a large amount of their mass is pure muscle. A 6'4, 340 LB left tackle is much different than a random 6'4, 340 LB man on the street. They squat, clean, and bench ungodly amount of weight. Their cardio is phenomenal. 

Offensive linemen aren't the only issue if you're going by BMI. Travis Etienne is 5'10, 220 LBs. According to BMI, that is obsese. The average NFL TE is 6'4, 255 LBs. That is obese according to BMI. Would you say Travis Kelce, who is 6'5, 260 LBs, is obese? No. 

Wolken acknowledged this in his article and got opinions from scholars:

“Everything being equal, individuals who are obese by Body Mass Index do tend to have more of a tendency to develop severe infection than someone who is not obese, and that applies whether you’re an athlete or not an athlete,” said Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at Johns Hopkins and an expert in infectious disease who is part of the NCAA’s coronavirus advisory panel. “The cardio pulmonary fitness of a linemen who has a high Body Mass Index … they may be better off (than the non-athlete) but in general obesity is a risk factor we have to think about.”

"It’s very fair to state that college football players, regardless of position, are still overall healthy and so my initial opinion would be they’re not at higher risk for cardiac complications post-COVID,” Kim said. “But these are the questions we want to ask because ultimately we know COVID is going to be with us for the foreseeable future and we need to know the best way to take care of these athletes and try to mitigate potential cardiac risk down the line for them.”

Overall, I wasn't expecting this article to be well thought out, but it was. It's an interesting read. I don't think the weight of offensive linemen will prevent the season from happening, but it is a factor I'm sure schools are thinking about.