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Study of Retired NFL Players Finds Evidence of Brain Damage
Date:7/2/2012

By Maureen Salamon
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, June 29 (HealthDay News) -- Tests performed on a group of retired NFL players revealed that more than 40 percent suffered from problems such as depression and dementia, adding to a growing pile of evidence that repeated sports-related head traumas can lead to lasting neurological issues.

Analyzing 34 ex-professional football players (average age 62) on benchmarks such as memory, reasoning, problem-solving and behavior, researchers from the Center for Brain Health at the University of Texas at Dallas found that 20 tested normal while the rest suffered from depression, various deficits in memory/thinking or a combination of these issues. Twenty-six of the players also underwent MRI scans.

"We picked up that many guys were depressed but didn't know it," added study author Dr. John Hart, medical science director at the center. "The cognitive impairments . . . were more than what's expected for their ages. A lot had damage to their brain's white matter, so for us it's a real clue or marker to look for."

Hart is scheduled to present the findings Friday at the National Athletic Trainers' Association (NATA) annual meeting in St. Louis. Research presented at scientific meetings should be considered preliminary until it is published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

An estimated 300,000 sports-related concussions occur in the United States each year, and mounting attention is being paid to the neurological toll of those injuries on former professional athletes. In June, a massive bundle of lawsuits representing more than 2,100 National Football League players was filed against the league, claiming that the NFL hid information linking football-related head injuries to permanent brain damage.

Hart's study involved ex-NFL athletes hailing from the North Texas region. For comparison purposes, the researchers also looked at the brains of 26 people with no signs of men
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