Effects of Playing in NFL May Last a Lifetime

The effects of playing in the National Football League may last a lifetime.

A new study finds cognitive deficits and depression are more common among some aging, former NFL players.

"The answer, particularly in the cognitive element and the thought component was yes, pretty high correlation between the history of concussion and higher scores on the cognitive aspects of depression," said Dr. Michael McKee, Ph.D.

University of Texas researchers compared NFL players with memory problems and depression, cognitively normal retired players who were not depressed, and a group of healthy control study participants.

They found significant differences in white matter abnormalities in cognitively impaired and depressed retired players.

"White matter sort of handles transfer of messages from one part of the brain to another. So, if you're trying to remember something, trying to get a name to come to you if you meet someone- that part needs to be working well."

Researchers say more studies are needed, but some NFL players may be more likely to develop depression as they age, or have problems with memory, naming, and word finding, than the general population.

Dr. McKee says it appears multiple concussions may increase the risk.

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