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Study shows 40 percent of former NFL players have brain injuries

New Orleans Saints fans have likely heard that there is a possible link between playing football and traumatic brain injuries, but the evidence has sometimes been circumstantial. However, a study now provides strong evidence that there may be a connection.

For the study, which was presented at the American Academy of Neurology annual meeting in Vancouver, researchers studied the brains of 40 retired National Football League players to assess brain damage and test executive brain functions. Through sophisticated MRI imaging, researchers found that 43 percent of the former players had damage to the white matter of their brains that was severe enough to be categorized as a traumatic brain injury, or TBI. Meanwhile, 30 percent of the players showed a disruption to the neuron connections of their brains, which is known to lead to brain disorders. The players also underwent cognitive testing, and 50 percent were found to have difficulty with executive brain functions like attention and planning, reasoning and problem solving. The tests also revealed memory and learning problems in 45 percent of the players.

The study found that players with longer football careers were more likely to have brain damage. However, there was no correlation between the number of concussions a player experienced and the likelihood of having brain trauma. Researchers said this could mean that the cumulative effect of a series of small blows to the brain may be just as harmful as a single large head trauma.

In addition to contact sports, traumatic brain injuries can arise from other events as well, such as car collisions. Victims who have been injured as a result of the negligence of another driver may want to have attorneys seek compensation on their behalf through lawsuits filed against the at-fault motorist.

Source: TIME, "40% of Former NFL Players Had Brain Injuries," Alice Park, April 11, 2016

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