NFL concussion symptoms linked to cognitive function decades later Missed-news

Former NFL players who experienced concussion symptoms during their playing careers performed worse on cognitive tests later in life, cross-sectional data showed.

Retrospectively reported concussion symptoms were associated with poorer performance on a series of tests that assessed episodic memory, sustained attention, processing speed and vocabulary nearly 30 years later, reported Laura Germine, PhD, of McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, and co. -authors.

After adjusting for age, cognitive performance was correlated with concussion symptoms in soccer (rp -0.19, 95% CI -0.09 to -0.29, P<0.001), but not with diagnosed concussions, years of professional playing, or age of first soccer exposure, the researchers wrote in Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology.

The results emphasize the importance of tracking concussion symptoms in research, not just diagnosed concussions, Germine and colleagues noted. They also shed light on how professional soccer careers can affect cognitive aging.

“It is well established that in the hours and days after a concussion, people experience some cognitive impairment. However, when you look back decades, the data on the long-term impact is mixed,” Germine said in a statement.

“These new findings from the largest study of its kind show that professional football players may still experience cognitive difficulties associated with head injuries decades after they have retired from the sport,” he noted.

The study evaluated 353 former NFL players with a mean age of 54 who completed a battery of online cognitive tests and a survey on demographic information, health conditions, and past exposure to football, including concussion symptoms. recalled playing for ball, diagnosed concussions, years of professional play, and age of first exposure to soccer.

Recorded concussion symptoms were measured by asking players how often they experienced headaches, nausea, dizziness, loss of consciousness, memory problems, disorientation, confusion, seizures, visual problems, or feeling unsteady on their feet after a blow to the head during a game or practice.

Cognitive tests were conducted an average of 29 years after the last season of professional play and included a one-hour assessment on TestMyBrain (a tool created by germine in 2005) to measure processing speed, visuospatial and working memory, and aspects of short- and long-term memory and vocabulary.

A comparison sample of 5,086 non-gambling men also completed one or more cognitive tests.

Relationships between recalled concussion symptoms in soccer and cognitive performance were maintained after adjusting for race, education, and playing position, but were largely attenuated after adjusting for reported anxiety and depression symptoms. “One possibility is that poorer cognitive performance, anxiety and depression are side effects of soccer injuries that produce concussion symptoms,” Germine and her co-authors suggested.

Age-adjusted cognitive performance was generally worse for former players than for non-players. While younger former gamers outperformed non-gamers on some tests, older retired gamers were more likely to have worse cognitive scores than their counterparts, especially on two tests of processing speed.

There are several possible explanations for this, the researchers suggested.

“One possibility is that soccer exposure accelerates age-related declines in processing speed, leading to cognitive disadvantages for former players relative to nonplayers at older ages, despite similar or better performance by former players.” former players at younger ages,” Germine and her colleagues wrote.

“A second possibility is that improved head injury prevention and management over time (eg, by incorporating impact sensor technology into the head) has lessened the impact of soccer exposure on the cognitive performance, preventing younger ex-players from suffering the processing speed disadvantages exhibited by older ex-players.” pointed out.

A major limitation of the study is the lack of cognitive performance data before concussion symptoms emerged, Germine and her co-authors acknowledged. More studies are needed to track cognitive changes in former professional athletes as they age, they noted.

“Future investigations of the long-term outcomes of contact sports exposure should include measures of sports-related concussion symptoms, which were more sensitive to objective cognitive performance than other measures of soccer exposure,” including Missed-news-reported diagnosed concussions,” they wrote.

  • Judy George covers neurology and neuroscience news for MedPage Today and writes about the aging brain, Alzheimer’s, dementia, multiple sclerosis, rare diseases, epilepsy, autism, headache, stroke, Parkinson’s , ALS, concussion, CTE, sleep, pain and more. Continue


The research was supported by the Harvard University Football Players Health Study, which is funded by the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA).

Germine reports relationships with the Many Brains Project and Sage Bionetworks.

A study co-author disclosed relationships with HitIQ and REACT Neuro, Inc.

main source

Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology

Reference source: Strong RW, et al “Association of retrospectively reported concussion symptoms with objective cognitive performance in former football players” Arch Clin Neuropsychol 2023; DOI: 10.1093/arclin/acad008.

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