Recurring concussions may lead to Alzheimer's, other brain impairments
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health analyzed the deaths of more than 3,400 former professional football players who played at least five seasons between 1959 and 1988. They found the players had three times the normal risk of neurodegenerative disease.
Of the 334 players who had died, Alzheimer's, ALS, and Parkinson's disease were listed for 17 of them, the researchers said. While findings do not establish a direct cause-effect relationship between football-related concussions and death from these neurodegenerative disorders, the findings do support current research that professional football players are at increased risk of death from these particular disorders.
Previous research suggests that chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a neurological disease that can occur years after exposure to repetitive concussive injuries and exhibits symptoms similar to Alzheimer's disease and ALS in some individuals, has been identified in players who have sustained football-related concussions, according to the study. Since CTE is a newly defined diagnosis, some deaths may have been wrongly attributed to Alzheimer's disease or ALS.
"Multiple research studies have raised concerns about the longer term health effects of recurring concussions," said NIOSH Director Dr. John Howard, "Our analysis of NFL players' mortality from neurodegenerative disorders may give insight into some of these questions."
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October 25, 2012
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