Super Bowl champion, Ben Utecht, on recognizing concussion signs or symptoms and removing athletes with suspected concussions from play. (60 Second - TV PSA)
For the current study, researchers conducted tests and brain scans on 40 retired NFL players. Ranging in age from just 27 years old to 56, the average age of the players was just 36 and most had been out of the NFL for fewer than five years. Average time in the NFL was seven years, though playing time ranged between two years and 17. On average, the men reported an average of 8 concussions, though 12 players said they had experienced several head injuries they believed to be “sub-concussive” or just below the threshold necessary to obtain a concussion diagnosis, which would include failing coordination tests and memory tasks.
The diffusion MRI scans measured the amount of damage to the brain's white matter, which connects different brain regions. The scan measurements of 17 players (43 percent) were 2.5 standard deviation points below those of healthy people of the same age — this is considered evidence of TBI (less than 1 percent error rate). About 30 percent or 12 of the former football players showed evidence of brain injury based on the ability of their brain cells to transmit messages to each other.
On the tests of thinking skills, about 50 percent had significant problems on executive function, 45 percent on learning or memory, 42 percent on attention and concentration, and 24 percent on spatial and perceptual function. The researchers believe their work sheds light on the changes in the brain that take place over time as a result of TBI.