Here’s yet another study on how former National Football League players fall victim to neurological diseases more often than the general population — three to four times more. It all adds insight as to the long-term effect of concussions on athletes.
The most recent research tracked more than 3,000 ex-football players who were active in the league for at least five years from 1959 to 1988, according to U.S. News & World Report. The study, co-authored by an epidemiologist with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, was published last week in the online version of the journal Neurology.
Players who were defined as having “speed positions — namely quarterbacks, running backs and linebackers — had death rates four times men in the general population for Alzheimer’s disease and so-called Lou Gehrig’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, ALS.
There are a lot of caveats on the research, including the fact that these players may have also been suffering from the new diagnosis of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a degenerative brain disease linked to head injuries with many of the symptoms of dementia, U.S. News & World Report said.
The study also tracked Parkinson’s disease among the former players. For Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and ALS combined, the death rate for the pros was triple the general population.
The former NFL players who were part of the study had an average age of 57, according to U.S. News & World Report. Researchers used the cause of death off the death certificates of 334 players who passed away through 2007. Some 62 percent of the players who died of neurological disorders were “speed” players, the magazine reported.
Researchers stressed that the NFL has made a number of changes to safeguard players against blows to the head and brain injury since the time the players in the research were active.
Scientists also noted that the study does not prove that head injuries directly caused the neurological problems that the players developed, according to U.S. News & World Report.