This is more of an observation of a phenomenon than a true diagnosis of an issue. It has become an increasingly apparent, NFL-wide trend for players to focus on playing weight. While concern over playing weight is an issue as old as organized sports, it seems that increased levels of obsessiveness over the measurable are occurring league wide, with the New York Jets representing a microcosm of the phenomenon. This obsession with weight is reminiscent of the psychological condition, Body Dysmorphic Disorder.
Diagnosis: Body Dysmorphic Disorder is an illness where the patient becomes detrimentally preoccupied with a perceived bodily fault, often weight. Jeff Cumberland, in an attempt to be a more dynamic pass catcher, has dropped some tonnage. Braylon Edwards weighed in at 215 pounds this year, his lowest measurement since the 2010 season. Quinton Coples, in an attempt to reach an “acceptable” playing weight for a 3-4 outside linebacker, has shed 12 pounds (dropping from 291 to 279 pounds).
- More healthy!
- Less healthy…
- Loss of focus on football fundamentals
- Smokin’ beach bod
Focus on Football: There is something to be said for a focus on playing weight. It can mean increased speed and agility. If the weight was altered properly, it can mean a higher muscle to fat ratio. However, it can also mean a loss of strength and focus. If weight is gained or lost with proper diet and exercise it can be highly beneficial to a player. However, if weight is altered artificially or unhealthily (see Joe McKnights 2012 McDonalds diet) it can harm the player.
Aside from physical health, this focus on playing weight can be a mental drain. If a player spends the whole offseason focusing on weight loss, they may spend less time executing football drills or working the functional muscle groups for the sport in the weight room.
With these detriments in mind, it may be best to encourage players to focus on specific, football-related skills in the offseason as opposed to a playing weight. A player’s improved football acumen will most likely be more noticeable in a game time scenario than even markedly improved weight.
Health Over Measurables: Most patients with Body Dysmorphic Disorder are so zeroed in on a specific attribute like weight or appearance they lose sight of overall health. Physical health should be a priority, especially for professional athletes. The ability to perform under high levels of physical stress is a necessity for pro ballers. A greater focus on eating right and proper weight room use would make a more noticeable difference in a players on-field performance than a specific weight goal.
Playing weight is something that will always be an inherent part of football. While it may impact on field performance, it will always border on detrimental to a player’s mental and physical health. I am not advocating a removal of playing weight from the sport itself, but I believe a focus on overall health and football acumen may provide for better on field performance and off field.