Research unveiled at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Paris today shows that NFL players are more likely to develop mild cognitive impairment, which can lead to Alzheimer’s disease, than men who didn’t play football.
Time magazine reports that the study gave former football players a standardized test for Alzheimer’s symptoms and found indications of dementia in a much higher percentage of them than is found in the population as a whole.
Christopher Randolph, the professor of neurology at Loyola University Medical Center who led the study, says mild cognitive impairment is associated with the kind of repetitive head trauma that football players experience. He also said that football helmets don’t protect against injuries caused by the brain hitting the inside of the skull.
Randolph also says that this kind of brain injury is caused by repeated minor blows to the head, not necessarily by blows to the head that cause concussions, and “it’s conceivable that by changing the ways players drill in practice, we could change things.”