Sleep Care

Tackling Sleep Apnea

Across the country as a part of the National Sleep Apnea Awareness Campaign is a program labeled “Tackle Sleep Apnea”. This nationwide campaign is being launched by Gergen’s Orthodontic Lab located in Phoenix, Arizona. Former players Chuck Foreman, Carl Eller, Greg Coleman, Stu Voigt, Jacob Green, Nesby Glasgow, Derek Kennard, and even more representing the Minnesota Vikings, Seattle Seahawks and Dallas Cowboys all have come together for the Tackle Sleep Apneas events.

Sleep apnea or sleep disordered breathing has an extremely high prevalence among many different athletes and even more at risk are NFL players of past and present. The Mayo Clinic conducted a study involving 167 former players. 60 percent of the linemen who participated in the study had sleep apnea with an average of 18.1 apneas an hour. For all the other former players who participated a staggering 46 percent were shown to have sleep disordered breathing with an average of 13.4 episodes an hour. This study is extremely alarming, and although athletes are at high risk due to physical stature and muscle tone, it is a warning that even after the playing days are gone you must monitor your weight and lifestyle. Symptoms of sleep apnea are not always blatantly obvious which is why overall awareness is so important.

David Gergen, President of Gergen’s Orthodontic Lab formed the Pro Player Health Alliance to spread awareness and team up with former NFL

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players who have sleep apnea all across the county. David Gergen was quoted as saying, “Knowing today’s economic situation and tougher times, this assessment may not be a priority to most individuals. The reality is, sleep apnea takes lives and that merits national awareness. With these events, we plan to spread the awareness and tackle sleep apnea throughout the country.” Along with spreading awareness of sleep disordered breathing and the dangers that go along with it, they are also educating people on alternative treatment options. Oral appliances are a focus of these alternatives options.

Stu Voigt, former Minnesota Viking, is one who has highly benefitted from an oral appliance. Continuous Positive Airway Pressure turned out to be intolerable to Voigt after having a sleep study and being diagnosed with sleep apnea. Voigt could not successfully tolerate his CPAP mask and over the years his sleep disordered breathing worsened. Voigt now wears an oral appliance, rather than uses CPAP, and loves it. Voigt stated, “My oral appliance is awesome. After the third night I didn’t even realize I was wearing it. I feel so much better and I’m no longer tired anymore.” Voigt is both a great success story of alternative therapy and diplomat to spread awareness.

Along with these conferences players share

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experiences, stories, and even have autograph sessions. A number of free in home tests, or portable home sleep tests, are being distributed to individuals as well. Glasgow said, “I saw what sleep apnea can do to you first hand when I saw a teammate of mine stop breathing several time while he was asleep. It scared me and now I am doing everything to raise awareness. It is not only NFL players that suffer from this, but also millions of Americans. Sleep apnea not only leads to many different and dangerous health problems but can also be fatal. The Tackle Sleep Apnea initiative is a great program with knowledgeable representatives and first hand experiences to spread the dangers of sleep apnea.

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