Brain injuries in former NFL players exceed 40 percent
Photo of Tennessee Titans WR Justin McCareins getting sandwiched on a hit by Mike Caldwell (59) and Jarrod Cooper (40) of Carolina Panthers during the
3rd Quarter of their matchup
Credit: Bill Frakes
“Objective” results from the use of diffusion tensor MR imaging clearly has shown that over 40 percent of retired National Football League (NFL) players show signs of traumatic brain injury, according to a large-scale study set for release at the American Academy of Neurology’s 68th Annual Meeting starting April 15 in Vancouver, Canada.
“This is one of the largest studies to date in living retired NFL players and one of the first to demonstrate significant objective evidence for traumatic brain injury in these former players,” Dr. Francis X. Conidi, the study’s author said in a statement. “The rate of traumatic brain injury was significantly higher in the players than that found in the general population.”
These recent findings fly in the face of years of denial by the NFL, which cited concussion research that the New York Times described as “flawed” in March. That research involved keeping a database from 1996 to 2001 in which all team doctors recording details of diagnosed concussions in players, who were kept anonymous.
When the paper obtained the data it “was able to determine the identities of all of the teams and many of the players. Subsequent analysis confirmed that at least 100 concussions, including some serious ones to the game’s top players, were not included in the league’s studies,” according to the paper.
Dr. Joseph Waeckerle, who was on the concussion committee, reported to the Times that he had not known about the missing cases. “If somebody made a human error or somebody assumed the data was absolutely correct and didn’t question it, well, we screwed up. If we found it wasn’t accurate and still used it, that’s not a screw-up; that’s a lie.”
This latest study just released at the AAN meeting looked at scans of 40 retired players, ranging in age from 27 to 56 years, who had suffered an average of just over 8 concussions each. “On the tests of thinking skills, about 50 percent had significant problems on executive function, 45 percent on learning or memory, 42 percent on attention and concentration, and 24 percent on spatial and perceptual function,” the study reported.
“We found that longer careers placed the athletes at a higher risk of TBI,” said Conidi. “This research in living players sheds light on the possible pathological changes consistent with chronic traumatic encephalopathy that may be taking place.”
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