Football Players at High Risk of Dementia Study Reports
After studying the brains of 115 active and retired professional football players, brain-health expert Dr. Daniel Amen says “playing football frequently causes brain damage.”
As the National Football League (NFL) reviews helmet to helmet rules and football-related head injuries today, Dr. Amen urges much stricter rules, heavier penalties and safer helmet technology to protect current athletes as well as their future.
“The helmets are not good enough, but that’s just the start of what needs to happen,” said Dr. Amen who has studied more than 70,000 brain scans in his 20-year career. Amen uses brain SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) imaging, a non-invasive procedure, to look at the functioning of living brains. “The NFL, team owners, athletes of all ages, parents, school officials and fans need to know the severe affects of getting hit in the head over and over again.”
Amen says brain-health problems often show up decades after the playing days are over, and the youth are not exempt. “If you played football as a teenager, you are at higher risk of a variety of brain-health problems later in life,” he said.
Amen’s research shows playing football may lead to brain-health problems resulting from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) which is a progressive degenerative disease associated with repeated brain trauma. CTE symptoms include dementia, memory loss, aggression, and depression. Symptoms may appear early, or decades after injury. Violent behavior, obesity, mental illness, and suicide are statistically common in populations of former players.
Amen, also founder of Amen Clinics, Inc. (ACI), began studying the affects of football on brain health, in 2007 at the request of members of the Retired NFL Players Association. As CEO and medical director, Dr. Amen also treats patients at one of four locations. He plans on opening three additional clinics in 2012 in New York, Atlanta and Chicago.
“Our study found significant evidence that football is one of the worst sports for the health of your brain,” Amen said. “Fortunately, there are treatment protocols that can literally reverse many of the symptoms and improve brain function.” The results of his work with NFL players has appeared in The Journal of Psychoactive Drugs (March 2011, “Reversing Brain Damage in Former NFL Players: Implications for Traumatic Brain Injury and Substance Abuse Rehabilitation”).
For more information on Dr. Amen’s research and practice, click here.