An independent study by researchers at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research has confirmed higher rates of dementia amongst professional (American) football players. The study was commissioned by the National Football League (NFL), which has denied a clear link in the past. The New York Times has a great story on it, here’s the bottom line:
Former players between 30 and 49 are 19 times more likely to develop memory-related diseases, including Alzheimer’s. Retired players ages 50 or higher appear to suffer these diseases at five times the national average. The study was not peer-reviewed but it appears to match similar findings on the effects of workplace head injuries.
More importantly, it contrasts sharply with previous studies commissioned by the league, including the work of the NFL’s concussions committee, which has denied a connection between the sport and dementia.
That’s not to say this is the final word on the matter. The study has come under some criticism for using phone surveys to diagnose patients. It contacted 1,063 players and caretakers and asked them questions about a variety of health-related topics, including whether they suffered from memory related diseases. Many of the researchers contacted by the Times said that it would have to be followed up with a more rigorous study.