November 5, 2013

Stress of coaching can add up quick in the NFL

The hospitalization of two coaches on one midseason weekend is a scary reminder that the unrelenting pressure of trying to win football games week after week can be a dangerous thing.

By Tim Dahlberg
The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Houston Texans head coach Gary Kubiak, center, is helped after he collapsed on the field during the second quarter of a game against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday in Houston.

The Associated Press

Coaches around the league talked Monday about how they try to deal with the stress of a job that takes place under an unrelenting spotlight. They praised team doctors for making sure they have regular physicals, and said they try to understand the warning signs that come with the job.

Then they went back to their offices to break down film and get ready for another Sunday where 70,000 people in the stadium and millions more at home are second guessing their every move.

“There are times when stress does things to you mentally and physically that nothing else does,” said Arizona coach Bruce Arians, who took over for Pagano when he was sick. “I know when I was at Temple my last year, I was having three migraines a week. The day I got fired I didn’t have another migraine.”

Stress can affect people in different ways, but researchers say there is an expanding body of evidence linking it to increased risk for heart disease, strokes and certain types of cancer. George Slavich, director of the Laboratory for Stress Assessment and Research at UCLA, said it increases inflammation in the body which leads to health problems.

“Stress-related increases in inflammation are a secret killer in the United States,” Slavich said. “What we have here is a good example of how stress can affect people in a high stakes, high pressure environment.”

It doesn’t get any more high stakes or high pressure than the NFL, but coaches everywhere are used to feeling the urgent need to produce. That’s certainly true in the college ranks, where the pay at big schools is comparable to the NFL and alumni are every bit as demanding as NFL fans are when it comes to their school’s football team.

Urban Meyer went to the emergency room complaining of chest pains the day after the SEC championship game when he was at Florida in 2009, and Wisconsin’s Gary Andersen collapsed in the bathroom of his home the next year after a loss while at Utah State. Minnesota’s Jerry Kill, meanwhile, had to take a leave of absence this year after suffering a series of epileptic seizures.

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops knows well the perils of his occupation. His father died in 1988 while coaching a high school game.

“I lost my father in the sidelines at 54-years-old, so if anybody knows the hazards of it, it’s myself, my family, and the reason why I yearly, twice a year, am very aware of being checked thoroughly with doctors,” Stoops said. “Not that that can prevent it, but you want to use the science, and the medicine and doctors as much as you can.”

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