Brain Injury Markers Present in Former NFL Players

brain scanJust how pervasive are concussions and other forms of traumatic brain injury (TBI) among professional athletes? According to a recent article in MedPage Today, a recent study determined that more than 40% of all former NFL players show signs of having experienced TBI. In other words, many—if not all—of those former players could be at risk of developing chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative disease of the brain that results from a “history of repetitive brain trauma,” according to an information sheet from the Boston University CTE Center.

Will these new findings impact the ways in which players approach the game? Or do we need even more evidence of the severity of football injuries in order to change the way the sport is played?

MRI Scans Showed Signs of Brain Injury

How did the recent study look for signs of TBI among former NFL players? According to Francis Conidi, one of the researchers who is also the head of the Florida Center for Headache and Sports Neurology in Port St. Lucie, as well as a Florida State University faculty member, the study looked at 40 ex-players. They had those former players undergo diffusion tensor MRI scans, which showed traumatic brain injury markers in 43% of the former players (17 people).

How does this MRI technology work? In short, it looks for levels of water movement, and it can detect signs of traumatic brain injury when levels of water movement are below the same level for healthy people who are in the same age group. As Conidi explained at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting, the former players determined to have TBI showed water movement on their MRI scans that were “2.5 standards deviations below those of healthy people of the same age.” Those scans, the article clarifies, “measured the amount of damage to the brain’s white matter, which connects different brain regions, based on the movement of water molecules in the brain tissue.”

Need for More Studies Involving Retired NFL Players

When Conidi gave his presentation to members of the American Academy of Neurology, he articulated that the recent study was one of the largest to investigate signs of concussions in retired NFL players. The results of the study suggest that we need to see more research involving ex-players in order to better determine the dangers of playing professional football.

According to A. Gordon Smith, the University of Utah School of Medicine’s vice chair of research and chief of neuromuscular medicine, the implications of this study could be far-reaching. Not only should current NFL players and their families consider the findings as relevant to their personal health, but those involved in youth sports as well as “the larger landscape of brain injury” should think carefully about the MRI results and the implications of work as a professional athlete. As Conidi explained, “we found that longer careers placed the athletes at a higher risk of traumatic brain injury.” In addition, Conidi clearly connected the study’s findings to CTE, noting that “this research in living players sheds light on the possible pathological changes consistent with chronic traumatic encephalopathy that may be taking place.”

If you or someone you love got hurt while playing sports and sustained a brain injury, you may be able to file a claim for compensation. An experienced San Diego brain injury attorney can discuss your options with you. Contact the Walton Law Firm today to learn more about how we can help.

See Related Blog Posts:
Mild Head Injuries Cause Long-Term Impairments
Sports-Related Concussions, Science, and the NFL

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