Treat Your Sleep Apnea, Improve Your Golf Game…
In a recent study conducted on golfers who were diagnosed with moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea, those who received treatment through nasal positive airway pressure (NPAP) therapy not only improved their health, but their golf games, too. It’s long been known that sleep apnea can cause daytime sleepiness and cognitive impairment, but never has it been so clearly demonstrated than by watching the golfer’s scores improve through treatment.
The research findings were presented last fall at CHEST 2009, the scientific assembly of the American College of Chest Physicians, and the study was conducted by Marc L. Benton, MD, FCCP a of the Atlantic Sleep and Pulmonary Associates in Madison, NJ and Neil S. Friedman, RN, RPSGT of Morristown Memorial Hospital. With obstructive sleep apnea, breathing becomes periodically blocked during sleep. The NPAP treatment uses special nasal masks that push pressurized air into the windpipe to keep it open.
The research showed the impact of the NPAP treatment on the golf handicap index of a dozen players with obstructive sleep apnea. The treatment spanned three to five months, and after 20 rounds of golf, golfers in treatment demonstrated a significant drop in their average handicap, from 12.4 to 11. The study found the best golfers, often older in the group, had the best improvements in their scores, dropping from 9.2 to 6.3 in their average handicaps. Twelve golfers without obstructive sleep apnea and who did not receive NPAP treatment were used as comparison, and showed no changed in their scores. In addition to reduced handicaps, the NPAP-treated golfers had significant improvements in their levels of sleepiness.
“Any golfer knows, when your ability to think clearly or make good decisions is compromised, the likelihood of playing your best is greatly diminished. Through treatment with NPAP, we can improve many cognitive metrics, such as attention span, memory, decision-making abilities and frustration management, which may in turn, positively affect a person’s golf games,” said Benton.
The NPAP is only effective when used properly and regularly, and it is reported that of men that use the NPAP device, only 40% are compliant, blaming discomfort, inconvenience, cost, noise or embarrassment as reasons for skipping the therapy. “Providers typically attempt to maximize compliance with the therapy by promoting its medical benefits or warning patients of the risks involved in not being treated.” Untreated obstructive sleep apnea can lead to heart disorders, lung dysfunction, high blood pressure and stroke. However, in this study, patients had a compliance rate above 90%. “The possibility of improving one’s ability to play golf appears to have been a significant motivation to improve treatment compliance,” said Benton.
If the hope of improving golfer’s scores is a way to encourage them to seek help with their sleep apnea, we’re all for it.
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