New Study Links Retired Football Players To Depression and Cognitive Impairment

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A new study exploring the link between football and brain injury is contributing to the evidence that a career in football can have life-long effects on the brains and the behavior of the players.

Just a few weeks after a study linked repeated traumatic brain injuries in football players and veterans to a disorder known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), researchers led by Dr. John Hart, medical science director at the center for BrainHealth at the University of Texas at Dallas, have found that retired NFL players were more likely to report cognitive impairment and depression as well as physical changes in the brain on an MRI scan.

Hart wrote in the study, published January 7th in JAMA Neurology, “NFL players may be more likely to develop cognitive impairments (problems with memory, naming and word finding) or depression as they age compared with the general population.”

These symptoms mirror those of CTE, and suggest many of the players are dealing with the symptoms while they are alive. CTE is currently diagnosed after death in players, and the results of these latest studies highlight the importance of creating methods of diagnosis for players before death.

Researchers also fear these problems are not limited to professional athletes, but could also be affecting amateur college level athletes, or even younger, especially after findings in the Dec. 12 Journal of Neuroscience found changes in white matter in children with recent brain injuries.

CBS News has more on the study, as well as extra context provided by other recent studies about traumatic brain injury.

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