American football players seem to need a massive body size to be successful in the field. However, a new research from Grand Valley State University‘s movement science professor assesses how the size has changed in college and professional football players over the past 70 years – it suggests that being bigger is not necessarily better or more importantly, healthier.

“We started to take a look at providing the information that sports medicine personnel need to be aware of in order to effectively protect the health of the players under their care,” said Jeffrey Potteiger, professor of exercise science. “In football, the most at-risk athletes are the offensive and defensive linemen.”

With the help of Maggie McGowan-Stinski, a senior athletic training major and one of Potteiger’s students, the team noticed that since 1942, the players have gained a quarter of a pound to one-and-a-quarter pound on the average each year. Overall, this means a 60-pound (27.26 kilograms) body mass increase for each offensive and defensive lineman on the average.

The duo warned that people may suffer from high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and metabolic syndrome due to their excess body mass and body fat, particularly around the abdominal region. Unfortunately, athletes attempt to gain body mass through other means other than simply hitting the gym and eating more food.

Potteiger points out that some athletes resort to growth promoting agents such as anabolic steroids, growth hormones and insulin to gain mass, but these products have side effects that can potentially be severe. As athletes take in more of these drugs, the severity of the side effects increases as it is dependent on the dosage level and length of time consuming these growth promoting agents.

The researchers encourage the football players to strive to gain at least one pound (0.45 kg) for a lean body mass and consuming one-and-a-half grams of protein per two pounds (0.91 kg) of body mass on top of maintain a good nutritional in-take.

Potteiger also say that eating adequate carbohydrates but avoiding excessive calories, doing a resistance training program three to five days each week and getting plenty of time to rest and recover is crucial to make an impact in the field without relegating to the use of growth promoting agents.