Dementia Risk for Retired Football Players?

Study Shows Many Former NFL Players Have Mild Cognitive Impairment

July 19, 2011 (Paris) — One in three retired NFL football players appear to have mild cognitive impairment (MCI), researchers report.

“Cognitive impairment seems to be more prevalent in retired American football players than in the general population that age, where you do not see rates anywhere approaching 35%,” says study head Christopher Randolph, PhD, clinical professor of neurology at Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago.

The findings are preliminary. And not every football player is destined to develop memory loss or other cognitive problems, says William Thies, PhD, scientific director of the Alzheimer’s Association.

Also, current players may be at less risk than in the past, he tells WebMD. NFL rules now require that players with symptoms of a concussion be cleared by a neurologist before they can return to play.

But the findings suggest that mild, repeated blows to the head — like the kind suffered by many players during their careers — may predispose people to dementia. That challenges the view that only moderate or severe brain injuries that render one unconscious pose a danger.


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