Athletes At Increased Risk Of Brain Damage
When that high school football player yearns to make it to the big time, he's blissfully unaware of the chance of permanent brain damage. We are mindful of the "punchy" retired boxer. Well, now research is pointing up the danger present in other sports as well.
NEW YORK - Six retired NFL players are among a dozen athletes who agreed to donate their brains to study the long-term effects of concussions, The New York Times reported on its website Tuesday night.
Former New England Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson, one of the players who committed to the donation, hopes Boston University's Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy can help clear up the debate on the issue.
"I shouldn't have to prove to anybody that there's something wrong with me," Johnson told the newspaper.
The 35-year-old's neurologist has pointed to Johnson's multiple concussions between 2002-05 as a cause of his permanent and degenerative problems with memory and depression.
"I'm not being vindictive. I'm not trying to reach up from the grave and get the NFL," Johnson added. "But any doctor who doesn't connect concussions with long-term effects should be ashamed of themselves."
Among the living athletes, most with a history of concussions, who have agreed to donate their brains for examination after their deaths are former NFL players Frank Wycheck, Isaiah Kacyvenski and Ben Lynch. Also participating are Noah Welch, who played hockey for the Florida Panthers last season, and Cindy Parlow, a former member of the U.S. national soccer team.
The centre is expected to announce Thursday that former Houston Oilers linebacker John Grimsley was the fifth deceased NFL player found to have brain damage commonly associated with boxers, according to the Times. Andre Waters, Mike Webster, Terry Long and Justin Strzelczyk were the first four.
Concussion Signs and Symptoms
- Memory loss
- Fluid draining from the ears, nose or mouth
- Unequal size pupils
Concussion Linked to Depression
Depression is one of the many symptoms experienced by athletes following concussion. In fact, some research finds the prevalence of depression in head trauma patients can be as high as 40 percent. Several studies have also shown a link between a history of brain injury and a higher probability of developing major depression later in life.
- One study on concussion in athletes from the Montreal Neurological Institute of McGill University identified a neurological basis of depression in athletes who have had concussions. Imaging tests done with functional MRI on athletes who had depression following a concussion showed the same pattern of brain activation as patients with major depression.
- Another study found that of 2,552 retired pro-football players, over 11 percent of those with a history of multiple concussions also had a diagnosis of clinical depression. Players reporting three or more previous concussions were three times more likely to be diagnosed with depression than those with no history of concussion.
- A study by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine reported finding structural changes in the white matter of the brains of patients with head injuries, with the most severe head injuries showing the most structural change. These structural changes correlate to cognitive deficits in thinking, memory and attention.