New study at UNC shows concussions promote dementias in retired professional football players

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.

The study, conducted by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers and colleagues, found that retired National Football League players also faced a 37 percent higher risk of Alzheimer's than other U. S. males of the same age.

A report on the findings, which are being presented at a Congress of Neurosurgery scientific meeting in Boston today (Oct. 10), appears in the October issue of the journal Neurosurgery. Lead authors are Drs. Kevin M. Guskiewicz, professor of exercise and sport science in the UNC College of Arts and Sciences, and Stephen W. Marshall, associate professor of epidemiology at the UNC School of Public Health and of orthopaedics at the UNC School of Medicine. Guskiewicz also chairs the exercise and sport science department, directs the university's Center for the Study of Retired Athletes and Sports Medicine Research Laboratory and holds a joint appointment in othopaedics.

"In this unique study, we had some very interesting findings," Guskiewicz said. "Our data suggest that a history of recurrent concussions and probably sub-concussive contacts to the head may be risk factors for the expression of late-life memory impairment, mild cognitive impairment and earlier expression of Alzheimer's disease. Research like this is important since more than 300,000 sport-related concussions, many of which are recurrent injuries, occur annually in the U.S. and more than 1.2 million Americans suffer head injury each year."

The study involved surveying by mail 3,683 retired professional football players who belonged to the NFL Retired Player's Association about their overall health and analyzing the results.

Of those, 2,552 returned questionnaires or had their

Contact: David Williamson
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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