A new study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill shows that football players suffer an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive impairments later in life as a result of repeated head injuries sustained while playing football.
“In this unique study, we had some very interesting findings,’ [Dr. Kevin] Guskiewicz [professor of exercise and sport science in the UNC College of Arts and Sciences] said. “Our data suggest that a history of recurrent concussions and probably sub-concussive contacts to the head may be risk factors for the expression of late-life memory impairment, mild cognitive impairment and earlier expression of Alzheimer’s disease. Research like this is important since more than 300,000 sport-related concussions, many of which are recurrent injuries, occur annually in the U.S. and more than 1.2 million Americans suffer head injury each year.’
The study involved surveying by mail 3,683 retired professional football players who belonged to the NFL Retired Player’s Association about their overall health and analyzing the results.
Of those, 2,552 returned questionnaires or had their spouses or other close relatives do so for about a 70 percent response rate. Players averaged almost 54 years old and had an average professional career spanning 6.6 years.
Researchers then surveyed a subset of 758 players aged 50 and older and asked more detailed questions about concussions and diagnosed dementia-related impairments. Spouses and close relatives also participated and assisted in confirming responses provided by the retired players. — Science Blog
Oh, and this little gem suggests the results may be understated: “The study’s chief limitation was that it was based on self-reported answers to the health questions, and the accuracy of remembering memory problems could not be verified completely.’