How much have pro football players changed since 1942? Anzell et al. (2013) examined changes in height, weight, and body composition (% body fat) for professional players (the original article includes data on college players, too).
Players were grouped into three categories: mixed linemen (offensive and defensive linemen, tight ends, linebackers), mixed offensive backs (quarterbacks, running backs), and mixed skilled players (defensive backs, wide receivers). Here are the time-related changes over 70 years:
- There were no significant changes in height for any of the groups
- Weight increased over time for offensive backs and lineman, but not for mixed skilled players
- Average weight for offensive backs increased by about 0.8 pounds a year and by almost a pound (0.94) a year for linemen
- There were no significant changes in body composition for any of the groups
Summary: Over 70 years of professional football, average weight for mixed offensive backs has increased by about 56 pounds. Average weight for mixed linemen has increased by about 66 pounds. With no reliable changes in height or body composition, it’s reasonable to conclude that lean mass (muscle) is responsible for the increase in weight.
How do we account for the change? Training methods, nutritional practices, supplementation, performance-enhancing drugs? What do you think? Share your comments below.
Source: Anzell, A. R., Potteiger, J. A., Kraemer, W. J., &; Otieno, S. (2013). Changes in height, body weight, and body composition in American football players from 1942 to 2011. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 27(2), 277–284.