Straighten Out Your 3-Iron With CPAP

Courtesy flickr user anthony_goto (CC)

Finally, a way to motive patients to use the CPAP machine you’ve prescribed for them.

According to Dr. Marc L. Benton, golfers with obstructive sleep apnea can expect to knock strokes off their game by adhering to nighttime treatment with continuous positive airway pressure. What’s more, the better the player, the bigger the improvement in golf handicap resulting from sticking with CPAP.

Compliance with CPAP is notoriously poor, notes Dr. Benton, a sleep disorders and pulmonary medicine specialist in Madison, N.J. Many patients, put off by CPAP’s noise, inconvenience, and expense, remain unswayed by their physician’s warnings of the serious medical risks they face in foregoing treatment.

Not avid golfers, however. Dr. Benton has shown in a small prospective study that golfers with OSA are are willing–indeed, eager–to embrace the therapy. He calls the prospect of playing a better game a powerful and previously untapped motivator to seek out and adhere to treatment.

“The adherence in this study was absolutely through the roof,” Dr. Benton observed in presenting his study findings at the annual meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians, held in San Diego.

“More so than almost any other sport, golf has a strong intellectual component, with on-course strategizing, focus, and endurance being integral components to achieving good play,” he noted. “Through treatment with nasal positive airway pressure [NPAP] we can improve many cognitive metrics, including attention span, memory, decision-making abilities, and frustration management, which may in turn positively affect a person’s golf game.”

His study included 12 golfers with moderate-to-severe OSA and 12 controls matched by age and golf handicap. None of the golfers with OSA had previously been interested in treatment, but the glowing vision of a lower handicap lured them into study participation.

After 3-5 months of NPAP their handicap dropped from an average of 12.4 to 11.0. All of them felt better able to perform on the links. The control subjects had no change in handicap.

The outcomes were particularly striking among the 5 golfers with OSA who were already very good at the game as defined by a baseline handicap below 12. Their average handicap dropped from 9.2 to 6.3, and they were ecstatic about it. “Most of these better golfers were in their late 50s and early 60s, a time of life when the handicap index is typically going in the other direction due to issues related to the aging process,” Dr. Benton noted.

He estimated that 1-3 million American golfers have OSA. In most cases the disorder is undiagnosed and/or untreated.

—Bruce Jancin

1 Comment

Filed under Family Medicine, IMNG, Internal Medicine, Pulmonary Diseases and Sleep Medicine, Sports Medicine

One response to “Straighten Out Your 3-Iron With CPAP

  1. What an interesting study! I never would have thought about the negative relationship between sleep apnea and golf performance. If it has that much of an impact on golf, imagine what a CPAP machine could do for your workplace productivity.

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