Reggie White and Sleep Apnea

I want to take a moment to discuss Reggie White, who was a professional football player for the Philadelphia Eagles and the Green Bay Packers. As you may already know, just weeks after his 43rd birthday, Reggie White unexpectedly died. In the news reports, the potential danger of obstructive sleep apnea and related breathing disorders was highlighted.

While Reggie White was diagnosed as apnetic, he was CPAP non-compliant. As a result, he did not complete treatment because he was unaware there was another option available–oral appliances. His wife said that if Reggie White had known about oral appliance therapy, he would have worn it.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

As you know, OSA affects about 2% to 4% of the U.S. population, and is associated with:

  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Hypertension
  • Myocardial infarction
  • Pulmonary hypertension
  • Arrhythmias

Characterized by brief periods of interrupted breathing during sleep, OSA typically lasts 10 to 30 seconds, recurring at a rate of 400 times a night (WOW!).

Sleep Apnea and Reggie White

Reggie White might have been one of those individuals who experienced a cardiac arrhythmia leading to his sudden death in his sleep. When someone has untreated sleep apnea, they are at a significant risk of developing one of the many complications of sleep apnea. While CPAP was prescribed for Reggie White, he did not wear it because at least 50% of individuals with CPAP fail to wear the device for a variety of reasons. While Reggie was prescribed it, he was not CPAP compliant and did not know of any other option.
For this reason, we need to continue to educate our patients so they know there are other alternatives. No one has to die prematurely–there’s a treatment option out there for them.