According to results, seasons of play and playing position in the National Football League are correlated with lasting neuropsychiatric health deficits.
“Men who played more seasons in the NFL were more likely to have serious cognitive impairment and depression,” Andrea L. Roberts, PhD, study co-author and research scientist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told Healio.com/Orthopedics. “And, men who played positions with greater risk of concussion, especially running backs and defensive linemen, were at greater risk of serious cognitive problems, depression and anxiety. Even young men, under age 35, had high risk of serious cognitive problems. It is imperative that the NFL greatly reduces concussions among its players.”
Roberts and her colleagues evaluated answers from questionnaires that 3,506 former NFL players completed on whether seasons of professional football, playing position and experience of concussions correlated with cognition-related quality of life (QoL) and indicators of depression and anxiety. The short form of the Quality of Life in Neurological Disorders, Applied Cognition was used to measure cognition-related QoL. Depression and anxiety symptoms were measured with the patient health questionnaire.
Results showed an association seen between seasons of professional football, playing position and cognition-related QoL. Investigators noted each 5 seasons of play correlated with a 9% increased risk of indicators of depression. This finding reached “borderline statistical significance,” according to the study.
A higher risk of poor cognition-related QoL and depression and anxiety were seen in men who played positions other than kicker, punter and quarterback. Poor cognition-related QoL, depression and anxiety were significantly associated with concussion symptoms, even 20 years following professional play.
Figure 1. Higher risk of poor cognition-related QoL and depression and anxiety were seen in men who played positions other than kicker, punter and quarterback.
“Where research is needed now is in treatment for concussions, since many adults and children in the general population also experience concussions and other brain injuries with, at times, lasting consequences,” Roberts said. – by Monica Jaramillo
Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.