It now appears that former NFL players are more susceptible to dying of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Lou Gehrig’s disease. Last week, a study in Neurology, a widely read peer-reviewed neurology journal, reported that former NFL players were unusually prone to death from degenerative brain diseases.
The study examined the death certificates of more than 3,400 former NFL players who had played at least five seasons in the league between 1959 and 1988. When compared to a test group of American men from the general population, degenerative brain diseases were listed as the underlying cause of death at about three times the general rate for former NFL players.
This news comes amid the recent wave of NFL concussion lawsuits which have highlighted the long term effects of repeated head blows to NFL players. In recent years, the main focal point of the litigation has been on a condition known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). CTE is a progressive degenerative disease, diagnosed post-mortem in individuals with a history of multiple concussions and other forms of head injury.
The study published in Neurology did not look for CTE as a cause of death because it is not a customary condition used by the researchers for classifying deaths. However, the researcher noted within the report that some of the counted brain disease deaths may have possibly resulted from misdiagnosed CTE.
On the same day this study was released, the NFL announced a donation of $30 Million to the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health for medical research. The National Institute for Health is the largest source of funding for medical research in the world. Roger Goodell, the NFL Commissioner, stated that the research could benefit athletes and listed CTE, concussion management, and Alzheimer’s as possible areas of study.