The University of Texas has completed its first major study into the long-term effects of head trauma on professional football players. Concussions among athletes of all types have been in the headlines, but the findings from this preliminary investigation are already providing insight into the cumulative effects of head injury later in life.
The study, published in JAMA Neurology, compares the cognitive and qualitative brain conditions of 28 former NFL players who had lost consciousness due to concussion in their sports careers to a control group of men of similar age and education with no history of concussion.
Loss of consciousness appears to be a key factor. Study participants who had lost consciousness were found to achieve lower scores in memory tests and some even met criteria for MCI (Mild Cognitive Impairment), but there was no correlation among subjects who had concussions but did not lose consciousness (which represents a majority of concussions in the general populace).