Thursday, December 5, 2013

This article knocked me out

Followers of OLS know that I've been following the football concussion issue relatively closely, particularly in terms of how football organizations are responding to the increased legal and public scrutiny (see here for a running stream of OLS posts on this topic).

An important consideration in all of this is, of course, the implied assumption that sports concussions actually do result in serious cognitive damage in the long-run and do so at a great rate than is the case in the general public.  If it turns out this is not true, then we have no problem, future-of-football-wise.  So, with that background, consider the results of a recent study seriously questioning that assumption:
It’s been widely reported that football and other contact sports increase the risk of a debilitating neurological condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
But in the journal Neuropsychology Review, researchers are reporting only limited evidence showing a link between sports concussions and an increased risk of late-life cognitive and neuropsychiatric impairments.
And there's this:
  • The largest epidemiological study of retired NFL athletes, which included 3,439 players, found that suicide rates were actually substantially lower among these athletes than among the general population. “Given that suicidality is described as a key feature of CTE, this finding is difficult to reconcile with the high rates of CTE that have been speculated to occur in these retired athletes . . . ,” Karantzoulis and Randolph write. “It is likely that there are a diverse set of risk factors for suicidality (e.g. life stress, financial difficulty, depression, chronic pain, drug abuse) in retired athletes . . ."
  • Two previous studies, including one by Randolph and colleagues, examined symptoms of retired NFL players who had mild cognitive impairment, a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease. In both studies, symptoms seen in the retired players were virtually the same as those observed in non-athletes diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment. These findings cast doubt on the notion that CTE is a novel condition unique to athletes who have experienced concussions.
 There's a lot more worth reading about it in the article...if you're interested in this topic it'll be worth your time.