New Study Linking League Players to Higher Risk of Death by Alzheimer’s and ALS Released on Same Day
Those bone-crushing, jaw-rattling, head-splitting tackles that regularly appear on Sunday night highlight reels made news off of the field yesterday, just prior to the kickoff of the National Football League’s (NFL) 2012 season.
The NFL announced its largest donation in league history – $30 million to the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH) – to fund research into the brain trauma often experienced by its players. The announcement came on the same day as the publication of a new study finding that the league’s former players are at higher risk of death from neurological diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and Alzheimer’s disease (AD).
Over the past few years, head injuries have taken on a new level of prominence within the league, as former players who have suffered concussions have publicly spoken about the lasting effects of such trauma. To date, almost 3,400 former players have sued the league over concussions, says The Washington Post.
According to the Neurology study, professional football players were three times more likely to die as a result of certain diseases that damage brain cells when compared with the general population. Their risk of dying of AD or ALS specifically was four times that of the general population.
And while the link between these football injuries and dying from Parkinson’s disease (PD) was not shown to be significant in this particular study, work supported by The Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF) has shown that head trauma could lead to PD by causing inflammation in the brain that adversely affects the workings of the dopamine system. A past grant supported by MJFF to Caroline Tanner, MD, PhD, of the Parkinson’s Institute, linked mild to moderate head trauma to a greater risk of PD up to decades following the event. More research is needed to confirm such a risk.