Golfers With Sleep Apnea
The study also finds that the best golfers had the biggest improvements in their scores. In this group, the average handicap dropped from 9.2 to 6.3, and their scores also improved from 10.8 to 2.8 on the sleep questionnaires.
"The biggest handicap improvements occurred in the lower handicap, often older golfers," says Friedman. "This group would be expected to trend in the opposite direction due to age-related deterioration in strength and endurance. The drop in handicap among the better golfers probably reflected that the major limiting factor was not golf skill but cognitive compromise that improved when the sleep apnea was treated."
According to Benton, it's likely that up to 3 million regular golfers have obstructive sleep apnea, and most are undiagnosed or untreated.
When proper treatment is offered, it's effective only if used regularly, the researchers say.
Studies in men have reported compliance rates as low as 40%, with people blaming discomfort, inconvenience, cost, noise, or embarrassment for skipping therapy, the researchers note in the news release.
In this study, patients in treatment had a compliance rate above 90%. "Providers typically attempt to maximize compliance with [the therapy] by promoting its medical benefits or warning patients of the risks involved in not being treated, but this approach does not always work," Benton says. "In the case of this study, the possibility of improving one's ability to play golf appears to have been a significant motivation to improve treatment compliance."
Kalpalatha Guntupalli, MD, FCCP and president of the American College of Chest Physicians, says finding new ways to encourage people with sleep apnea to undergo the therapy is "definitely encouraged."
Golf, the researchers conclude, may be a strong motivator to seek therapy.
The CHEST meeting is being held this week in San Diego.