University at Buffalo compared the brains of 21 retired NFL and NHL players to non-contact sport athletes.
This was part of UB’s Healthy Aging Mind Project. The Ralph Wilson Jr. Foundation funded the study. The goal was to identify cognitive changes, executive function and advanced brain imaging in former pro athletes.
It did not find evidence of early onset dementia in the retired players, which would be expected with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, better known as CTE.
CTE has been linked to professional athletes with a history of concussions. This is believed to be the first study of its kind surrounding the ongoing concussion topic.
UB Director of Concussion Management Clinic Dr. John Leddy said surprisingly there wasn’t a significant difference in the two groups. However, he worries about the deteriorating physical state of former players.
“Probably need to worry a lot more about things that are modifiable like cardiovascular risk factors, getting regular aerobic exercise, eating right, keeping their weight down,” Leddy said.
Former Buffalo Bills Wide Receiver, Lou Piccone said it’s disappointing that the guys who helped build the game in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s are left struggling with chronic health problems.
“There is a group of us that played before the big money. But not before the big hits. The guys who built the game are really left behind. We need to catch up. Somebody got to help us catch up before the graveyard,” Piccone said.
UB Doctors said there are still more questions than answers when it comes to concussions. They say this study brings them a little bit closer to getting those answers.
The full study is printed in the Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation.