The study is believed to be the first to explore the interplay between career length, position and cognitive and mental health outcomes among professional football players.
The analysis -- based on a survey of nearly 3,500 former NFL players -- was conducted by investigators at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School as part of the ongoing Football Players Health Study at Harvard University.
Study - Results - Players - Concussions - Risk
The study results show that players who experienced concussions had elevated risk for serious cognitive problems, depression and anxiety, which persisted over time, as long as 20 years following injury. The investigators caution that their analysis relied on players' memories of experiencing concussion rather than on diagnosis at the time of injury. And the findings do not mean that everyone with concussion will necessarily experience cognitive or mental health problems, they add. Contrary to previous reports, the new research did not find a link between starting football at a young age and cognitive problems in adulthood.
On one level, the researchers say, many of their findings make intuitive sense and confirm what some might have already suspected: The longer players remain in the game, the more likely they are to suffer a head injury, which increases the risk for neurocognitive problems. It also affirms that certain positions are more prone to concussions and, therefore, players in them face greater risk for experiencing the downstream of effects of head injury.
Researchers - Analysis - Risk - Careers - Positions
Nonetheless, the researchers said, the analysis is the first to document and quantify the risk that stems from lengthier careers and certain high-impact positions.
Specifically, the analysis showed that players who reported the most concussion symptoms had 22-fold risk of reporting serious long-term cognitive problems and six times the risk of having symptoms of depression and anxiety, compared with those who reported the fewest symptoms.
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