Researchers examining the brains of NFL players have confirmed what we already knew: Degenerative brain disease occurs at an alarming rate in NFL players, specifically those players who suffer through hard hits to the head and concussions throughout their careers.
The study also discovered that NFL players are three times more likely to die from Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Lou Gehrig’s disease combined compared to the general population.
Research in the past had found higher levels of those disease, but the new study headed up by lead researcher Everett Lehman of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health was the first to determine the actual death rates brought about by those diseases in NFL players.
Reported online in the journal Neurology, the study examined the death certificates of NFL players to determine death rates and the cause of death. All together, 3,400 NFL players were examined with each player having completed at least five seasons in the NFL between 1959 through 1988. The report found that 334 NFL players had died by the end of 2007.
The study found that one of the three brain diseases was found in 10 deaths, a number three times the national average.
While the study can not conclusively state that NFL players are at a higher risk of death from brain disease, its results are on par with other studies that have also found a connection between NFL players and brain related issues.
The study’s results come on the same day that the NFL donated $30 million for medication research to the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health.
In 2012, the NFL assigned a group of specialists to diagnose players who take hard hits during NFL games, removing the responsibility to monitor those players from team trainers who benefit by keeping players playing week in and week out.