Tags: concussion | depression | nfl

NFL Study: Concussions Hike Depression Risk

Friday, 18 Jan 2013 10:12 AM


National Football League players are more likely to suffer depression as they age due to brain damage from concussions, according to two new studies to be presented at a meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in San Diego next month.

The findings add to concerns about the long-term impacts of concussion on NFL players and other athletes who have sustained brain injuries.

The first study evaluated 34 retired NFL athletes with a history of concussion and 29 non-players of the same age who had not been injured. The results showed the retired athletes who had been injured reported an average of four concussions and exhibited greater symptoms of depression, “reinforcing the correlation between depression scores and the number of lifetime concussions,” the investigators reported.

The second study involved 26 retired NFL athletes, five of whom had a history of depression. Researchers examined MRI brain scans to measure damage to white matter in the players’ brains, which occurs in traumatic brain injury and is seen in some people with depression. By looking at the brain scans, researchers could predict which former players had depression with “100 percent sensitivity.” The severity of the depressive symptoms was also associated with the degree of white matter damage in a wide range of brain regions.

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“While it is known that sports concussions can cause immediate disturbances in mood and thinking, few studies have investigated the long-term effects that may emerge later in life, especially those related to depression," said researcher Nyaz Didehbani, of the Center for BrainHealth at the University of Texas at Dallas, which conducted the studies. "Our study shows that athletes who have sustained concussions in early adulthood may be at a higher risk for developing depression as they age compared to the general population.

“It is important when a concussive experience occurs that medical professionals appropriately include depression screening in their follow-up assessment. Depression is a treatable condition if the proper and necessary steps are taken."

Co-researcher Kyle Womack, M.D., of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, added that the new research may not only be relevant to former NFL players.

"Aside from providing important insights into the nature of depression as it relates to brain damage in retired NFL athletes who have been exposed to concussive and repetitive head injuries, this study also may help us to understand the similar behavioral symptoms seen in other sports-related head injuries and in combat-related blast injuries seen in armed service members," Womack said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that up to 3.8 million sports concussions occur each year.




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