Stop Striking Out at Night: A Lesson in Obstructive Sleep Apnea from World Series Champion, Mike Napoli

In November of 2014, Cleveland Indians’ star first basemen Mike Napoli (then with the Boston Red Sox) underwent bimaxillary advancement surgery to treat his debilitating obstructive sleep apnea, a procedure that he says was life-changing and career-saving.

Napoli had struggled with obstructive sleep apnea for over a decade, fighting fatigue from the disorder that affected his personal life and professional career. It started with chronic snoring and incidents of gasping for air while sleeping. As time went on, he found himself constantly tired during the day, which hindered his ability to pay attention during team meetings. During the Red Sox’s historic 2013 season, Napoli’s situation became so bad, he was allowed to take naps during pre-game batting practices in a secret room in Boston’s Fenway Park.

He underwent a sleep study that showed he was waking up 40-100 times each hour, struggling to breathe and never falling into REM sleep. When he was on the road during the long season, he would leave his hotel room door unlocked so that the paramedics could enter if need be. He never felt rested and didn’t dream at night for almost a decade. However, it wasn’t until he started dozing off at the wheel of a car that he admitted to himself that something drastic needed to be done to treat his obstructive sleep apnea.

The 2013 World Series Champion explored a number of different treatment options for his sleep disorder before ultimately deciding upon surgery, including two different oral devices, medication and a CPAP device, but found he couldn’t sleep with the mask on his face or with air being forced down his throat. He said at that point, he knew that he couldn’t continue in the career he loved with untreated sleep apnea.
“I couldn’t do it anymore, the way I was feeling,” Napoli told reporters at the Red Sox’s Baseball Winter Weekend in 2015. “I was like, I’ve got to have surgery or I’m not going to play anymore. That’s how bad it was.”

“When I was younger, I could get away with (not wearing a CPAP mask),” Napoli added. “Now that I’m getting older, it was tougher. I came in and I’m like I need to go see the doctor now. I want to have this surgery yesterday.”

Napoli and his doctors decided on bimaxillary advancement surgery. The operation which advances both the upper and lower jaw in order to increase the size of the airway involved a significant recovery time. He spent the off-season undergoing the procedure, spending several days in the hospital, and eating a limited diet. By Spring Training, he was back on the field and feeling like a changed man.

“It’s crazy how I feel,” Napoli told Bleacher Report. “When I wake up now, it’s like, ‘Man, I was in a deep sleep.’ I can tell. Just being motivated and wanting to do stuff.”

Dr. Michael Lee, a Board Certified Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon and the Clinical Director of the Cincinnati Center for Corrective Jaw Surgery said, “While Napoli’s surgery required a stay in the intensive care unit, a soft diet and weeks of recovery, surgeons who perform these procedures routinely are able to offer their patients a cure for Obstructive Sleep Apnea through jaw advancement, without wiring the jaws together and without difficult to tolerate liquid diets.”

“Additionally, jaw advancement surgeries with experienced surgeons are less painful than other airway surgeries that remove soft tissue from the palate, throat or tongue.”

Dr. Michael Lee and the surgical staff at the Cincinnati Center for Corrective Jaw Surgery work with sleep medicine and ENT doctors across the region. He and his staff are available to answer questions about the growing health problems associated with OSA and the options for treatment.

For patients who are tired of dealing with CPAP masks and jaw repositioning appliances that are uncomfortable to wear, jaw advancement surgery is an option that may be the definitive answer. Contact the Cincinnati Center for Corrective Jaw Surgery to learn more.

For more information on OSA Surgery.

Case Study: Thinking Outside the Airway, Treating Obstructive Sleep Apnea with Maxillomandibular Advancement Surgery.