Thursday, October 17, 2013

The NFL's Concussion Problem: New Evidence

According to a Los Angeles Times article a newly published study of NFL alumni reveals that the
differences in brain function between the former NFL players and their healthy comparison group suggest that long before concussion-related dementia is evident, the brain begins to work differently to keep up. As crucial brain networks break down, those who have sustained cumulative injuries to their brain must exert extra mental energy just to deliver cognitive performance approaching normal.
The groundbreaking aspect of this particular study (available online) is that the former players were living at the time of their participation in the study and, rather than brain tissue being examined, the players and the participating control group underwent "fMRI-optimised neuropsychological test of executive function" that examined brain activity while each subject performed a series of tasks.

In recent years the NFL has seemingly played both sides of the concussion threat -- supporting scientific research and rule changes within the game while simultaneously claiming that the science was unclear and unsettled as to whether or not playing football leads to encephalopathy -- and we can only wonder how much longer league leadership will equivocate on this crucial issue.