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Neurodegenerative Causes of Death Among Retired National Football League Players

Neurodegenerative causes of death among retired National Football League Players  Everett J. Lehman, Misty J. Hein, Sherry L. Baron, et al. Neurology 2012;79;1970-74 ; Published online before print September 5, 2012;

December 19, 2012 - Today's Post:

To help advance the field in understanding the growing consensus about a connection between head injury and long-term consequences, Lehman, et. al analyzed neurodegenerative causes of death, specifically Alzheimer disease (AD), Parkinson disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), among professional football players.

They found that the neurodegenerative mortality of former NFL players is 3 times higher than that of the general US population; and for 2 of the major neurodegenerative subcategories, Alzheimer’s disease and ALS, the increased risk of disease is 4 times higher. These results are consistent with recent studies that are showing an increased risk of neurodegenerative disease among football players, boxers and other athletes who participate professionally in contact sports.

The work leads directly to the next question – what genetic links exist that contribute this relationship between trauma and its long-term consequences?

Put another way, is every former NFL player at a 4 times higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease, or do these increased risks vary in size based in part on the DNA make-up of the player?

All serious scientists will say it’s the latter – that a person’s genetic make-up contributes to the risk of neurological consequences after head injury.

That’s our starting point for working with physicians and athletes.  First is a commitment to providing a balanced analysis of new information that emerges.  And second is our commitment to leading the field in supporting new studies to further understand these risks.  ---- Jim Kovach

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