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Golfers, want to lower your handicap? Fix your sleep apnea

November 2, 2009 |  5:01 pm

Golfers who undergo treatment for sleep apnea can lower their handicap by as much as three strokes, particularly if they are older, better players, New Jersey researchers reported today. By reducing their daytime sleepiness, researchers told a San Diego meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians, golfers can improve their attentiveness and ability to make crucial shots. "More so than many sports, golf has a strong intellectual component, with on-course strategizing, focus and endurance being integral components in achieving good play," said Dr. Marc L. Benton of Atlantic Sleep and Pulmonary Associates in Madison, N.J. Sleep apnea "can lead to daytime sleepiness, fatigue and cognitive impairment, all side effects which can negatively impact a person's ability to golf to the best of one's ability."Golfer

Benton and Dr. Neil S. Friedman of Morristown Memorial Hospital in Madison studied 12 golfers with diagnosed sleep apnea. All 12 used a night-time device that provides nasal positive airway pressure (NPAP), a treatment that has been shown effective for reducing sleep apnea but that many patients do not like to use. They were compared to a group of 12 patients who did not receive treatment. Handicaps were measured before and after the three to five months of therapy.

Patients receiving treatment had a drop in their average handicap from 12.4 to 11.0, while those receiving no treatment had no improvement. The best golfers, those with a handicap below 12 initially, had the greatest improvement--dropping from an average handicap of 9.2 to 6.3.

"Providers typically attempt to maximize compliance with NPAP by promoting its medical benefits or warning patients of the risks involved in not being treated, but this approach does not always work," Benton said. In this study, "the possibility of improving one's ability to play golf appears to have been a significant motivation to improve treatment compliance."

-- Thomas H. Maugh II

It may not give you the skills of British golfer Ross Fisher, but treating sleep apnea can improve your handicap by as much as three strokes. Photo credit: EPA/A. Carrasco Ragel