How Did Reggie White Die?

Reggie White, a legendary football player, passed away unexpectedly just weeks after his 43rd birthday. His tragic death sheds light on the potential dangers of obstructive sleep apnea and related breathing disorders. In this article, we will explore Reggie White’s life, delve into the topic of obstructive sleep apnea, and discuss its diagnosis and treatment options.

Reggie White: A Brief Biography

Reggie White had an illustrious career as a professional football player, representing both the Philadelphia Eagles and the Green Bay Packers. His exceptional skills as a defensive end earned him the title of NFL Defensive Player of the Year twice. After retiring in 2000, he held the record for the most quarterback sacks in NFL history. Off the field, Reggie White was known as “The Minister of Defense” and was the founder of Christian Athletes United for Spiritual Empowerment.

Reggie White
Image: Reggie White during his playing days.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition that affects an estimated 2% to 4% of the US population. It is associated with various health issues such as daytime sleepiness, cognitive impairment, hypertension, myocardial infarction, pulmonary hypertension, arrhythmias, and an increased risk of motor vehicle accidents. OSA is characterized by brief interruptions in breathing during sleep, with episodes lasting 10 to 30 seconds and recurring up to 400 times per night.

OSA occurs when the airway is obstructed, preventing sufficient airflow into the lungs. The blockage can be caused by factors such as the person’s tongue, tonsils, uvula, or fatty tissue in the throat.

Diagnosis of OSA

The cardinal signs of obstructive sleep apnea are stentorian snoring and severe sleepiness. However, patients may deny or downplay these symptoms. Often, it is the sleeping partner who notices the snoring or pauses in breathing during sleep. Other complaints may include daytime sleepiness, morning headaches, forgetfulness, loss of libido, and mood changes.

The gold standard test for diagnosing obstructive sleep apnea is overnight polysomnography, which is conducted in a sleep laboratory. Home monitoring devices are also available but are recommended only when laboratory testing is not feasible. The Respiratory Distress Index (RDI) is used to assess the severity of sleep apnea based on the number of respiratory disturbances per hour of sleep. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), an RDI of 0 to 5 is considered normal, 5 to 20 is mild, 20 to 40 is moderate, and over 40 is severe.

Treatment Options for OSA

Initial treatment for obstructive sleep apnea includes lifestyle modifications such as eliminating alcohol and sleep medications, weight loss for overweight patients, and changing sleep positions (preferably sleeping on the side instead of the back).

For patients who do not respond to these simple measures, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy is recommended. CPAP works by delivering pressurized air to keep the airway open, acting as a splint. Surgical treatment options aim to correct anatomical abnormalities in the upper respiratory tract. These procedures range from tonsillectomy for simple cases to more complex procedures like maxillomandibular advancement, which involves advancing both the maxilla and mandible simultaneously. Surgical interventions are considered based on the severity of apnea, the degree of anatomic abnormality, and the failure of CPAP therapy.


1. How common is obstructive sleep apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea affects an estimated 2% to 4% of the US population.

2. What are the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea?
Common symptoms include stentorian snoring, severe sleepiness, daytime fatigue, morning headaches, forgetfulness, loss of libido, and mood changes.

3. How is obstructive sleep apnea diagnosed?
The gold standard test for diagnosis is overnight polysomnography conducted in a sleep laboratory. Home monitoring devices can be used when laboratory testing is not feasible.

4. What are the treatment options for obstructive sleep apnea?
Initial treatment includes lifestyle modifications and positional changes during sleep. If these measures don’t work, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy or surgical interventions may be recommended.


Reggie White’s untimely death highlights the significance of recognizing and addressing obstructive sleep apnea. This condition can have serious consequences on an individual’s health and quality of life. If you suspect you or someone you know may have sleep apnea, it is crucial to seek medical attention for proper diagnosis and treatment. Remember, your well-being is important, and taking care of your sleep health is a significant step towards a healthier life.

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