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NFL Players at Higher Risk for Brain Damage

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A new study released on Monday reaffirmed the link that most believe exists between hits now-retired NFL players took over the course of their professional careers, and brain damage -- along with deteriorated mental health -- later on in life.

According to research that was scheduled to be presented at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference 2011, ex-NFL stars tend to experience a heightened risk of mild cognitive behavior – a potential lead-up to Alzheimer’s disease.

"It appears there may be a very high rate of cognitive impairment in these retired football players, compared to the general population in that age range," said lead researcher Christopher Randolph, a neuropsychologist at Loyola Medical University Medical Center in Chicago.

"Football, soccer, hockey ... are all contributing to the incidence of late-life dementia," he added.

The study noted that players who spent at least part of their careers playing in the NFL had a few very notable signs of mild cognitive impairment. This coupled with past records of mental health deterioration in the latter parts of life for many former pro football stars continues to signify that former stars are not getting the protection that they deserve and, ultimately, pay for it down the line.

In doing the research, Randolph and his team found that of 513 retired players, 35 percent showed possible signs of mild cognitive impairment. The results were attained by giving players comprehensive tests for the Study of Retired Athletes at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and then documenting the results. Former players’ results were then compared with 41 non-athletes who had no cognitive impairment 81 people who did have cognitive impairment.

Ultimately, the results showed that frequent blows to the head from playing football heightened the risk of degenerative mental health diseases later in life.

"However, it would take additional studies to confirm this," Randolph said. "So for now, these studies should be considered very preliminary."

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