Golfers With Sleep Apnea Find Their Performance Improves With CPAP Therapy
December 14, 2013

CPAP Helps Golfers With Sleep Apnea Improve Their Performance

April Flowers for - Your Universe Online

For middle-aged men with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a new study shows that treatment with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy will improve their golf performance.

The study findings, published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, reveal that up to six months of treatment with CPAP therapy was associated with significant improvements in self-reported excessive daytime sleepiness and sleep-related quality of life. A significant drop of 11 percent was seen in the average handicap index — a standardized formula that estimates a golfer's skill level — in participants treated with CPAP. The average handicap index dropped by an average of 31.5 percent in more skilled participants with a baseline handicap of 12 or less. Factors such as improved concentration, endurance and decision making were cited by participants as the reasons for their improved performance.

"The degree of improvement was most substantial in the better golfers who have done a superior job of managing the technical and mechanical aspects of golf," said principal investigator Dr. Marc Benton, senior partner at Atlantic Sleep & Pulmonary Associates and medical director of SleepWell Centers of NJ in Madison, N.J. "With the cognitive enhancement afforded by successful treatment of their sleep apnea, they saw measurable improvement early and more significantly than those who were less skilled."

Average utilization of CPAP therapy by participants in the treatment group was 6.3 hours per night for 91.4 percent of the nights, which is a much higher compliance rate than is typically reported, according to objective data reporting. This suggests that the potential for improved golf performance may have played a motivational role in increasing treatment compliance.

"An important aspect of providing high quality, patient-centered care is to identify the unique factors that motivate individual patients to comply with treatment," said American Academy of Sleep Medicine President Dr. M. Safwan Badr. "Effectively treating sleep apnea with CPAP therapy can yield numerous physical, cognitive and emotional benefits, all of which can be great motivators for patients when they begin treatment."

Benton worked with Neil Friedman to recruit and study 12 men with moderate to severe OSA who had a mean age of 55. Twelve men without sleep apnea made up the control group. These men were matched for age and handicap index. To participate, study subjects had to maintain a handicap with the Golf Handicap and Information Network (GHIN), which is a service of the Unites States Golf Association (USGA), and their handicap index was recalculated after completion of 20 rounds of golf during the study period.

The researchers say that most avid golfers in the US are adult males between 40 and 70 years of age, which is a demographic that has a high prevalence of obstructive sleep apnea. OSA, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (ASM), is a common sleep illness affecting up to seven percent of men and five percent of women involving repetitive episodes of complete or partial upper airway obstruction occurring during sleep despite an ongoing effort to breathe. CPAP therapy, which helps keep the airway open by providing a stream of air through a mask that is worn during sleep, is the most effective treatment for OSA.