Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New Study At UNC Shows Concussions Promote Dementias In Retired Professional Football Players

October 11, 2005
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Repeated concussions brought on by blows to the head during their playing days significantly boost the chances that retired professional football players will suffer dementias such as mild cognitive impairment in later life, a new study suggests.

Related Articles

Thestudy, conducted by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hillresearchers and colleagues, found that retired National Football Leagueplayers also faced a 37 percent higher risk of Alzheimer’s than otherU. S. males of the same age.

A report on the findings, which arebeing presented at a Congress of Neurosurgery scientific meeting inBoston today (Oct. 10), appears in the October issue of the journalNeurosurgery. Lead authors are Drs. Kevin M. Guskiewicz, professor ofexercise and sport science in the UNC College of Arts and Sciences, andStephen W. Marshall, associate professor of epidemiology at the UNCSchool of Public Health and of orthopaedics at the UNC School ofMedicine. Guskiewicz also chairs the exercise and sport sciencedepartment, directs the university’s Center for the Study of RetiredAthletes and Sports Medicine Research Laboratory and holds a jointappointment in othopaedics.

"In this unique study, we had somevery interesting findings," Guskiewicz said. "Our data suggest that ahistory of recurrent concussions and probably sub-concussive contactsto the head may be risk factors for the expression of late-life memoryimpairment, mild cognitive impairment and earlier expression ofAlzheimer’s disease. Research like this is important since more than300,000 sport-related concussions, many of which are recurrentinjuries, occur annually in the U.S. and more than 1.2 millionAmericans suffer head injury each year."

The study involvedsurveying by mail 3,683 retired professional football players whobelonged to the NFL Retired Player’s Association about their overallhealth and analyzing the results.

Of those, 2,552 returnedquestionnaires or had their spouses or other close relatives do so forabout a 70 percent response rate. Players averaged almost 54 years oldand had an average professional career spanning 6.6 years.

Researchersthen surveyed a subset of 758 players aged 50 and older and asked moredetailed questions about concussions and diagnosed dementia-relatedimpairments. Spouses and close relatives also participated and assistedin confirming responses provided by the retired players.

"Whenconsidering prevalence of previous concussions, 1,513, or 60.8 percent,of the retired players reported having sustained at least oneconcussion during their professional playing career, and 597, or 24percent, reported sustaining three or more concussions," Guskiewiczsaid.

Among retired players who sustained a concussion duringtheir professional careers, more than half reported experiencing lossof consciousness or memory loss from at least one of their concussions,he said.

"We asked the retired players for their subjectiveassessment of the long-term consequences of their injuries," Guskiewiczsaid. "Of the retirees who sustained at least one concussion, 266, or17.6 percent, reported that they perceived the injury to have had apermanent effect on their thinking and memory skills as they havegotten older. The findings showing a relationship between diagnosedmild cognitive impairment and history of concussions -- three or more-- suggest that a true memory effect is present."

Retired playerswith three or more concussions had a five-fold greater chance of havingbeen diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment and a three-foldprevalence of reported significant memory problems compared to thoseplayers without a history of concussion, he said. Physicians haddiagnosed 33 players with Alzheimer’s. The higher prevalence of thememory-destroying disease was more noticeable in the younger age groups-- those below age 70 than in those over that age.

Co-authors ofthe report are Dr. Julian Bailes of the West Virginia University Schoolof Medicine, Dr. Michael McCrea Waukesha Memorial Hospital and theMedical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, Dr. Robert C. Cantu ofEmerson Hospital in Concord, Mass., and Brigham and Women’s Hospital inBoston, Dr. Christopher Randolph of the Chicago Neurological Instituteand Loyola University Medical School in Maywood, Ill., and Barry D.Jordan of Burke Rehabilitation Hospital in White Plains, N.Y.

Thestudy’s chief limitation was that it was based on self-reported answersto the health questions, and the accuracy of remembering memoryproblems could not be verified completely.

"Future prospectivestudies should implement genetic testing since genes are known toaffect memory," Guskiewicz said. "Also, there needs to be more rigorousdiagnostic criteria, historical documentation of injuries and periodicevaluations such as neurophysiologic testing and functionalneuroimaging to clarify the effects of concussion on lifetime risk ofdementia or other neurologic disorders."

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Cite This Page:

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "New Study At UNC Shows Concussions Promote Dementias In Retired Professional Football Players." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 October 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/10/051011000046.htm>.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (2005, October 11). New Study At UNC Shows Concussions Promote Dementias In Retired Professional Football Players. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 27, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/10/051011000046.htm
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "New Study At UNC Shows Concussions Promote Dementias In Retired Professional Football Players." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/10/051011000046.htm (accessed January 27, 2015).

Share This

More From ScienceDaily

More Mind & Brain News

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

City Divided: A Look at Model Schools in the TDSB

City Divided: A Look at Model Schools in the TDSB

The Toronto Star (Jan. 27, 2015) Model schools are rethinking how they engage with the community to help enhance the lives of the students and their parents. Video provided by The Toronto Star
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Saves Pennies For 65 Years

Man Saves Pennies For 65 Years

Rooftop Comedy (Jan. 26, 2015) A man in Texas saved every penny he found for 65 years, and this week he finally cashed them in. Bank tellers at Prosperity Bank in Slaton, Texas were shocked when Ira Keys arrived at their bank with over 500 pounds of loose pennies stored in coffee cans. After more than an hour of sorting and counting, it turned out the 81 year-old was in possession of 81,600 pennies, or $816. And he&apos;s got more at home! Video provided by Rooftop Comedy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Technology Is Ruining Snow Days For Students

How Technology Is Ruining Snow Days For Students

Newsy (Jan. 25, 2015) More schools are using online classes to keep from losing time to snow days, but it only works if students have Internet access at home. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Weird Things Couples Do When They Lose Their Phone

Weird Things Couples Do When They Lose Their Phone

BuzzFeed (Jan. 24, 2015) Did you back it up? Do you even know how to do that? Video provided by BuzzFeed
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.


Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News


Free Subscriptions

Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile

Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?

Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins