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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

BU Brain Study Shows Ex-NFL Players Negatively Affected by Youth Football

A new study co-authored by Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researchers points to a possible increased risk of cognitive impairment from playing youth football.

The National Institutes of Health-funded study, published online in the January 28, edition of the journal Neurology, finds that former National Football League players who participated in tackle football before the age of 12 are more likely to have memory and thinking problems as adults.

For the study, researchers examined test scores of 42 former NFL players, with an average age of 52, all of whom had experienced memory and thinking problems for at least six months. Half the players had played tackle football before age 12, and half had not. Significantly, the total number of concussions was similar between the two groups.

Researchers found that the players exposed to tackle football before age 12 had greater impairment in mental flexibility, memory, and intelligence — a 20 percent difference in some cases. These findings held up even after statistically removing the effects of the total number of years the participants played football. Both groups scored below average on many of the tests.

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