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  • Today's football players are huge.

  • It's easy to see the difference when you look at modern players versus the old-school

  • players side by side.

  • This is William Heffelfinger.

  • In 1892, he became the first person to be paid to play football.

  • And he's a decently big guy: 6' 4”, 178 pounds.

  • But compare that to players today, and he looks tiny.

  • Take the New England Patriots' Alan Branch — 6' 6'', 350 pounds.

  • Or the Atlanta Falcons' Jake Matthews — 6' 5'', 309 pounds.

  • Back in 1970, only one NFL player weighed over 300 pounds.

  • By 1980, there were three.

  • By 1990, 94.

  • By 2000, 301.

  • And in training camps in 2010, 532 players weighed over 300.

  • These charts by Alex Bresler show the change in NFL players' height and weight

  • from 1936 until 2013.

  • Over time, players got taller and heavier on average.

  • Notice that while most positions had a slow increase in weight, these two skyrocketed.

  • Those are the offensive and defensive linemen, the guys that ram into each other at the start

  • of each play.

  • You can think of it as a kind of weight class specialization happening over time based on

  • player positions.

  • Receivers and the guys who guard them need to be fast down the field, while the linemen

  • are basically sumo wrestlers trying to either block or buy time

  • for the players moving the ball.

  • That size specialization probably had to do with the ways the rules have changed over

  • time.

  • Before the 1950s, substitutions were limited, so players played multiple positions, offense

  • AND defense.

  • That discouraged specialization.

  • And then in the 1970s, blocking below the waist became illegal, which basically moved

  • offensive line action above the waist.

  • Before that, if linemen were too top-heavy, they would be more vulnerable toold-school

  • blocking techniques that would knock out their knees.

  • On top of that, new training and dieting practices have helped players get bigger and stronger

  • more efficiently.

  • These heavy players are still really athletic.

  • But the rapid increase in weight comes with some serious health concerns.

  • A government study in 1994 found that NFL linemen face a substantially higher risk of

  • dying of heart disease — 52 percent higher than the general population and three times

  • the risk compared to other NFL players.

  • And a 2008 study found that retired linemen were almost twice as likely to have metabolic

  • syndrome, which includes a bunch of risk factors like obesity and high blood pressure.

  • That makes them a lot more likely to suffer from heart disease and diabetes down the road

  • than non-linemen.

  • So yes, many players have gotten bigger as the game of football has evolved.

  • And they've helped their teams by bulking up, but it does come at a price.

Today's football players are huge.

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How NFL rule changes made linemen gigantic

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    joey joey posted on 2021/05/23
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