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Following Cal U football player death, doctor issues reminder of COVID obesity risk

Published: Sep. 9, 2020 at 9:42 PM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - California University of Pennsylvania initially announced Tuesday the death of football player Jamain Stephens was due to COVID-19 complications, but backtracked on that statement, saying there’s been no confirmed cause of death.

LCR Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Rand McClain says if it was, in fact, due to the coronavirus, Stephens' 6′3″, 355-pound stature could’ve contributed to those complications.

“It’s not unusual for a gentleman, who gets this disease in that state and has that body mass, that he would suffer complications,” Dr. McClain said. “Despite his youth, he had a bigger strike against him, which would be the obesity factor.”

Stephens was just 20 years old, which is in an age range that is responsible for 0.0018% of all COVID-19 deaths in the United States according to the CDC.

Dr. McClain also says even if an overweight or obese athlete is in seemingly good physical shape, they could still be considered at higher risk to deal with COVID-19 issues.

“Take a bodybuilder, for example, if he’s got no body fat, how can you call him obese,” Dr. McClain said. “That’s not what were talking about here. It’s not necessarily fat. It’s a calculation. It’s important to note that obesity as defined by calculation. Fat or not, but just being heavy for your height is a big risk factor for COVID.”

If a person’s Body Mass Index (BMI) is 30.0 or higher, it falls within the obese range. A BMI number ranging from 25.0 to 29.9 is overweight, while 18.5-24.9 is normal.

“That message I think needs to get across to everyone out there. Big guys and gals, whether their bodies have more fat or not, need to be more careful because they’re at higher risk,” McClain said.

Earlier this week, Baylor issued a report of 10 active coronavirus cases (6 symptomatic, 4 asymptomatic) within its athletics department. Its football team currently has 35 players listed on the roster who fall under the obese category.

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