CONTEXT: The essential omega-3 fatty acids (ω-3 FAs) eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) exhibit vital biological roles and are critical for cardiovascular and neurologic health. Compared with the general population, football athletes may be at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Further, those same athletes are also exposed to repetitive head impacts, which may lead to long-term neurologic deficits. Both diets high in ω-3 FAs and supplementation with ω-3 FAs have been reported to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, and early evidence suggests a potential neuroprotective effect of supplementation. OBJECTIVE: To determine the (1) erythrocyte content of DHA and EPA, as measured by the Omega-3 Index, expressed as a percentage of total fatty acids, in National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I football athletes and (2) distribution across the Omega-3 Index risk zones established for cardiovascular disease: high risk, <4%; intermediate risk, 4% to 8%; and low risk, >8%. DESIGN: Cross-sectional descriptive study. SETTING: Multicenter trial. PATIENTS OR OTHER PARTICIPANTS: Deidentified data including complete erythrocyte fatty acid profile from the 2017-2018 season, age at time of testing, height, weight, and ethnicity were collected from 404 athletes. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE(S): Omega-3 Index. RESULTS: About 34% of athletes (n = 138) had an Omega-3 Index considered high risk (<4%), and 66% (n = 266) had a risk considered intermediate (4%-8%). None had a low-risk Omega-3 Index. CONCLUSIONS: The Omega-3 Index is a simple, minimally invasive test of ω-3 FA status. Our data indicate that football athletes may be deficient in the ω-3 FAs DHA and EPA. The fact that no athlete had an Omega-3 Index associated with low risk suggests football athletes may be at increased risk for cardiovascular disease in later life.
- cardiovascular disease risk
- docosahexaenoic acid
- eicosapentaenoic acid
- head impacts
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
- Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation