Retired NFL players at higher risk for mild cognitive impairment

July 18, 2011

Retired NFL football players are at higher risk for mild cognitive impairment, which can be a precursor to Alzheimer's disease, a Loyola University Health System study has found.

A screening survey of 513 retired players and their wives found that 35 percent of the players had scores suggesting possible (MCI). Their average age was 61.

"It appears there may be a very high rate of in these retired football players, compared to the general population in that age range," said Christopher Randolph, PhD.

Randolph presented his findings at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference 2011 in Paris.

Persons with MCI have problems with memory, language or another mental function. Such problems are noticeable to themselves or others, and show up on tests, but are not severe enough to interfere with daily living. People who have MCI are at higher risk for developing Alzheimer's disease over the next few years.

A subset of players were further screened by telephone, and then underwent more extensive evaluation at the Center for the Study of Retired Athletes at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. These players were compared with two groups of nonathletes: 41 demographically similar adults with no and 81 people diagnosed with MCI.

The retired players met standard for MCI and were clearly impaired compared with the demographically matched nonathletes. The impairments of retired players shown on neuropsychological testing were highly similar to those exhibited by patients with MCI.

The athletes with MCI were significantly younger and slightly less impaired overall than the comparison group of nonathletes with MCI.

Animal studies have demonstrated that blows to the head can kill , even when the blow is not sufficiently hard to produce a concussion. Recent studies of wearing helmets with accelerometers have found that, each season, the average college football player receives more than 1,000 blows to the head of a magnitude greater than 10 g-force. More than 250 of these blows are greater than 30 g-force.

Randolph said the findings of his study suggest that repetitive head trauma from years of playing football may result in diminished brain "reserve" and thus lead to earlier expression of age-related degenerative diseases such as MCI and Alzheimer's.

"However, it would take additional studies to confirm this," Randolph said. "So for now, these studies should be considered very preliminary."

Explore further: MRI shows brain atrophy pattern that predicts Alzheimer's

Related Stories

MRI shows brain atrophy pattern that predicts Alzheimer's

February 10, 2009

Using special MRI methods, researchers have identified a pattern of regional brain atrophy in patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) that indicates a greater likelihood of progression to Alzheimer's disease. The findings ...

Experts: HS football concussions merit more study

October 30, 2009

(AP) -- Some studies suggest that head injuries can set up professional football players for later mental problems. Now congressmen and experts want to know more about injuries to high school players.

Study finds mild cognitive impairment is more common in men

September 6, 2010

A new Mayo Clinic study found that the prevalence of mild cognitive impairment was 1.5 times higher in men than in women. The research, part of the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging, also showed a prevalence rate of 16 percent in ...

Walking slows progression of Alzheimer's

November 29, 2010

Walking may slow cognitive decline in adults with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and Alzheimer's disease, as well as in healthy adults, according to a study presented today at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society ...

Recommended for you

Team makes Zika drug breakthrough

August 29, 2016

A team of researchers from Florida State University, Johns Hopkins University and the National Institutes of Health has found existing drug compounds that can both stop Zika from replicating in the body and from damaging ...

Zika virus may persist in the vagina days after infection

August 25, 2016

The Zika virus reproduces in the vaginal tissue of pregnant mice several days after infection, according to a study by Yale researchers. From the genitals, the virus spreads and infects the fetal brain, impairing fetal development. ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.