A cohort of retired NFL players was determined to have fewer instances of chronic brain injury than reported in previous studies, according to recently published data.
“Our results indicated that there were brain lesions and cognitive impairments in some of the players; however, the majority of the individuals in our study had no clinical signs of chronic brain damage to the degree that has been noted in previous studies,” lead author, Ira R. Casson, MD, said in a press release.
Casson and colleagues conducted neurological examinations of 45 retired NFL players with an average age of 45.6 years who had played for an average of 6.8 years and reported an average of 6.9 concussions during their careers. Means of evaluation included an MRI, susceptibility weighted imaging, diffusion tensor imaging, neuropsychological assessments, interviews, blood tests and apolipoprotein E4 genotyping.
Four players were shown to have microbleeds in brain parenchyma, and three players were shown to have septum pellucidum with brain atrophy. Nine cases of moderate to severe depression were found. Thirty-eight percent of players, larger than the number in the general male population, showed an abnormal gene that may predict future cognitive issues, according to the researchers.
No instances of dysarthria, Parkinson’s disease or cerebellar dysfunction were observed, and the majority of patients were diagnosed with normal clinical mental status and central nervous system neurological exam results, according to the researchers.
MRI detected probable chronic football-related brain injury in approximately 13% of cases. Neuropsychological testing demonstrated evidence of cognitive impairment in 24.4% of cases, though these may or may not be related to football, according to the researchers.
“The prevailing view that a career in football frequently results in brain damage still needs to be studied further. With additional funding and time, more detailed analysis can take place to determine the long-term effects of playing football and what can be done to help prevent injuries, especially concussion,” Casson said.
Disclosure: The authors have no relevant financial disclosures.