Regular readers of this blog will know that I'm a big NFL football fan. An article in the NY Times this week reported that a study from the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research found that Alzheimers disease and similar memory-related diseases appear to occur in NFL players more frequently than in the general population:
"The Michigan researchers found that 6.1 percent of players age 50 and above reported that they had received a dementia-related diagnosis, five times higher than the cited national average, 1.2 percent. Players ages 30 through 49 showed a rate of 1.9 percent, or 19 times that of the national average, 0.1 percent."
Now, whether the data are a statistical anomaly or real, it is interesting (nay, amusing) that the league would hasten to try and point out the limitations of a study they commissioned themselves.
Still, the study findings suggest that while 50 NFL retirees might be expected to have dementia or a memory loss, the actual number could be much higher.
Causality is never easy to prove but it would support the idea that there is a connection between professional football and increased cognitive decline in later life is not surprising given the sheer violence and trauma involved in the sport.
The same Academic institution recently reported on the rise of dementia in the general population. Maybe one day we can see improvements in research regarding a deeper understanding of the causes and improved therapeutic interventions. More studies are currently underway, so time will tell.