Small Study: Former NFL Players Suffer More Depression Than Ordinary People.

Bloomberg News (1/8, Lopatto, Cortez) reports, “Former National Football League players suffer more depression than ordinary people, according to research that may explain recent suicides in the group,” according to a study published online Jan. 7 in JAMA Neurology. In the “study of 34 retired NFL players, about 25 percent suffered with clinical depression, higher than the 15 percent seen in the general population.”

On its website, CBS News (1/8, Jaslow) reports that the study “adds to the evidence that repeated head blows absorbed during a football career could lead to changes in the brain that affect the athletes’ behavior.” Both “neurological and neuropsychological tests,” along with 26 detailed brain scans taken of study participants, revealed that “players were more likely to report cognitive impairment and depression and show physical brain changes on an MRI scan, compared to healthy individuals.”

The CNN (1/7, Smith) “The Chart” blog explains that “it was problems with white matter among players that caught study authors’ interest.” That is because “White matter is brain tissue that acts as a sort of conveyor belt for signals traveling to different brain regions. When white matter is damaged — think about that conveyor belt veering off-course or stopping altogether — problems crop up with cognition, or thinking ability.”

According to MedPage Today (1/8, Walsh), “Disrupted white matter integrity appears to represent a potentially important biomarker for neurobehavioral impairment,” the study authors concluded. An editorial accompanying the study “called for more epidemiologic data on the incidence on chronic traumatic encephalopathy and risk factors.” The editorialists wrote, “Because the symptoms of CTE, such as irritability, depression, and cognitive problems, are protean and nonspecific, biomarkers and neuroimaging to complement the clinical examination will likely be essential and will improve the accuracy of the diagnosis during the lifetime of the individual and will be used to follow the natural history of the illness.”

HealthDay (1/8, Storrs) points out, “The current study did not find a relationship between the number of concussions that a player experienced and whether they went on to develop a cognitive impairment.”

WebMD (1/8, Doheny) notes, “The study was supported by the Brain Health Institute for Athletes and a grant from the National Institute on Aging.” Reuters (1/8, Pittman) also covers the story.

Related Links:

— “NFL Brain Injuries Make Depression More Likely, Study Suggests, “Elizabeth Lopatto, Bloomberg, January 8, 2013.

Posted in In The News.