It should be noted that these findings are different from those involving athletes who have had TBIs.
A new study focused on retired NFL players, looking at neuropsychological changes. Thirty-four retired NFL players between the ages for 41 and 79 were included in the study.
Only two of the NFL players did not have a history of a concussion. Of the participants who had had a concussion, the average number of concussions during the life span was 4.0.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans were done on 26 of the participants, as the other participants were claustrophobic. They were matched to 26 healthy controls.
After administering neurocognitive tests, 20 of the retired NFL players were cognitively normal, four had a fixed cognitive deficit, eight had mild cognitive impairment, and two had dementia.
They found that with those who had cognitive impairment, there were associations between cognitive dysfunction and white matter lesions.
Specific cognitive domains were found to be impaired in the retired NFL players, which included issues with word finding, memory and naming. These impairments were correlated with blood flow changes in the superior temporal lobe, inferior parietal lobule and left temporal pole.
In addition to cognitive impairment, eight of the retired NFL players were depressed, which was slightly higher than expected for that age group.
The authors noted that the findings suggest that with age, retired NFL players may be more likely to develop depression or cognitive impairments in word finding, naming or memory.
The connection between TBI and dementia is not so clear-cut, and there may be other factors involved. For example, genetics may play a role. Future research may help identify these factors.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How Many People Have TBI?. Web. 9 January 2013.
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Traumatic Brain Injury: Hope Through Research. Web. 9 January 2013.
Dams-O’Connor et al.